Council turns to birds of prey to solve pigeon problem

Merton Council is turning to Tonbridge-based avian control company Hawk Force to solve its pigeon problem.

Safer Merton, the partnership made up of a number of agencies including Merton Council, the police and the fire brigade, will be launching its anti-pigeon initiative on 3 June, 11am-2pm by the clock tower at Mitcham’s Fair Green.

The Safer Merton partnership has recruited this feathered army in response to residents raising concerns with the council about the implications of pigeon droppings and the pieces of bread which some people drop on the ground for the birds to feed on.

A variety of birds of prey will be in Mitcham including two Harris hawks, one redtail hawk, a Bengal eagle, a Bookbook owl and a pere-saker falcon. Visitors to Fair Green will have the chance to see the birds up close and talk to their handlers about the birds and how they will help reduce the number of pigeons in Mitcham. Following the launch, Harris hawks will be flying at regular intervals during the week over the coming year.

Merton Council cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration Councillor Andrew Judge said: “Residents have raised a lot of concerns with us about pigeons in Mitcham town centre. They can be a nuisance and spread disease if too many of them come into the area. Using birds of prey in this controlled way is an effective deterrent and will discourage pigeons from coming here to nest. We spend £3.7 million per year on cleaning the borough’s streets, money we would rather reinvest in other environmental initiatives and services, so by working with the hawks we should see a reduction in pigeon droppings. Our main message to residents is please don’t drop litter, including bread, as this only attracts the birds and other pests to the area, making our streets dirty. As we say in Merton, ‘bin it, don’t sling it’.”

Hawk Force general manager Karl Robertson said: “Birds of prey are not only naturally brilliant at dissuading urban pests like pigeons from over populating an area, they also offer a wonderful spectacle. The launch of this initiative will give people a rare chance to see these beautiful birds face-to-face.”