Gulls are intelligent creatures, adapting to make the most of any opportunities. In many areas they have progressed from seaside cliffs into coastal towns and ports. This incursion into urban areas has lead to issues of damage and aggressive behaviour, particularly during the mating season when gulls are very protective of nests and young.
Some omnivorous gulls will carry closed shellfish aloft and drop them repeatedly from a great height until they break, whilst others will drop stones from above to crack open seashells. This habit of dropping shellfish was causing Associated British Ports (ABP) Southampton quite a headache. As the UK’s No. 1 vehicle handling port (with approximately 750,000 vehicles passing over the quayside each year) the local gulls habit of dropping things from a great height posed a risk to the vehicles awaiting import or export.
ABP wanted a humane and environmentally friendly solution to deterring gulls from nesting around the port area. Rentokil provided Hope (literally) – to be precise, Layla Bennett and her Harris Hawk ‘Hope’ as part of the expert team tasked with keeping the port pest free.
Harris Hawks like Hope are skilfully trained to deter problem birds like gulls and pigeons without hurting them. The gull population feel threatened by the presence of such a predator and look to move to other areas where they feel safer to nest and they will be less of an issue.
Southampton Port Director, Nick Ridehalgh commented: ” The gulls are a genuine problem for our vehicle handling business but we are keen to take a humane approach. Hawking represents a natural way to deter birds, without harm and protect our growing business.”
ABP Southampton and Rentokil are working together to remedy gull issues and the hawking programme continues to effectively deter nuisance birds from nesting in the area and causing damage and fouling.
Hawking is just one element in keeping the port pest-free. Deterring feral pigeons at ABP’s Town Quay and controlling rodents on the port estate, as well as monitoring and controlling any insect issues are all part of continually protecting the port against pests.