Introduction of hawks to Lowestoft town centre set to reduce seagull population

Seagulls in Lowestoft town centre.
PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Seagulls in Lowestoft town centre. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

They are commonplace in seaside towns.

But now Lowestoft Vision – the town's business improvement district (BID) – is launching an innovative way of managing large numbers of increasingly aggressive seagulls.

In October 2011, the menace posed by seagulls in Lowestoft was spelled out to MPs. Back then Waveney MP Peter Aldous led a debate in the House of Commons on the problems posed by seagulls in coastal towns and their impact on residents, businesses and local councils.

Now, five-and-a-half years on, as part of its ongoing programme in 2017 to boost Lowestoft town centre's attractiveness to shoppers and visitors, a hawk and falcon will fly in the town centre as Lowestoft Vision looks to contain the gulls.

It comes after the organisation, which is part of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Lowestoft and Waveney, have been taking professional advice from Natural England and the RSPB in recent months to develop a scheme over the winter.

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While seagulls are seen as welcome residents in a traditional seaside town, the increase in population has seen a rise in complaints from shoppers which includes reports of food items being snatched and people feeling intimidated by them

As a result, Lowestoft Vision has commissioned NBC Environment to provide an intensive period of hawk and falcon flying in the town centre, aimed at dissuading the seagulls from nesting during their breeding season in the rooftops of buildings in the town centre.

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The Harris hawk and falcon flying will begin on Monday, April 3 and run through until the end of April. These timings have been selected so that they finish before any seagull eggs have hatched to ensure none of the existing chicks are harmed.

David Howard, director of Palmers Department Store and Lowestoft Vision member, said 'As a business organisation Lowestoft Vision is committed to improving the cleanliness and experience for town centre customers. We have sought advice from a wide range organisations on the best way to tackle the increasing problems with seagulls and feel that hawk flying, which will encourage seagulls to nest away from the town centre, is the most proportionate and timely way to deal with this problem this year. We would also ask shoppers and visitors to help us contain the local seagull population by refraining from feeding them as this only habituates them to taking food from humans.' COMMENT Stuart Miller, of NBC Environment, said: 'Gulls are not intrinsically bad, but they do create a lot of noise, a lot of mess and they can be aggressive when protecting or providing for their young. As such, moving the birds to locations where they are less likely to come into regular contact with humans is advisable.

'If action isn't taken gulls will return to the same nesting sites year-in-year-out and bring their offspring with them. Each pair can produce up to 30 offspring each decade and the birds start breeding at around three years old. Unless action is taken, gull colonies can grow very large in a relatively short space of time.

'Non-lethal falconry is an effective way to do this, because gulls will not nest in areas where they believe there is an active population of predators.'

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