Hawk patrol clears town of pigeon nuisance

George, a Harris hawk, stretched his wings and flew off to perch on a ledge above the library in the centre of Woking, Surrey. As he did so, pigeons scattered and flew off in all directions.

George and his mate Harriet are used by Woking Borough Council to frighten away pigeons. And since they started their duties a few weeks ago, council officials believe the number of pigeons and the amount of pigeon mess in the town centre pedestrian precinct has declined.

Alan Wiles, head of environmental services in Woking, said: 'Pigeon mess on seats in the town centre is unsightly and causes damage to clothes because it is acid. It also causes damage to buildings. We have tried other means of preventing pigeon nuisance but none are very effective.' The hawks patrolled the centre of Woking every day for the first week and now visit once a week as a reminder to the pigeons.

The Harris hawk took off again and perched on top of the car park beside Sainsbury's. Alarmed pigeons flew off, taking care to keep above the hawk so it was unable to dive-bomb them.

David van Vynck, the hawk handler, said: 'The Harris hawk comes from South America where it feeds on small animals and birds. The pigeons can easily outfly the hawk but they don't like it - so it frightens them off.'

George flew up to the church roof where he found a comfortable perch on the parapet and did not want to come down. Seven pigeons watched him from the ridge of the roof, looking curious but unconcerned. Mr van Vynck produced a dead day-old chick from the back pocket of his jeans and whistled. George looked first with one eye then with the other. He thought, then looked both ways again before flying down for an easy meal.

(Photograph omitted)