Meet Ronnie the hawk as he bids to stop seagulls attacking South Shields people
A transport interchange’s newest recruit is already putting his talons to the test as he aims to prevent seagulls from attacking people.
Ronnie the hawk has been employed by transport firm Metro to protect staff and passengers at South Shields’s new £21m joint bus and train station.
Around 200 gulls nest and congregate at the site, part of an ongoing £100m regeneration plan for the town, and have been known to attack passers-by while they eat food.
There are even fears the seagulls may purposely aim their waste at unsuspecting members of the public.
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Falconer Declan Gibbons, of MBC Environment, who is starting to visit the station on a regular basis, is taking advantage of how empty the interchange is during coronavirus lockdown.
Declan, who is also using Alice the falcon as back up to Ronnie, said: "Seagulls are cleverer than people think.
"If you go at the same time every week they will start expecting you and then disappear.
“So you have to make sure you surprise them.
"They make a lot of mess. They also use that as a weapon. I have heard of them dive bombing people.
"They are lazy. They would much rather wait for someone to leave Greggs and steal their sausage roll, rather than have to hunt their own food.
"The aim isn't to kill the seagulls but to scare them away. I have a hawk and a falcon. The hawk darts about and the falcon circles."
At this time of the year the seagulls are breeding and they become fiercely protective of their nests on the interchange’s roof .
Declan is permitted to remove eggs although he must not harm any chicks which have hatched.
The Gazette last week revealed Metro’s plans with the company insisting “this is a humane and a permitted method for dealing with this issue”.
Its customer services director, Huw Lewis, added: "With gulls being a protected species the bird of prey was the best option for us to address this problem.
"We need to stop the gulls from nesting on the roof of the new interchange building as that can create a lot of damage if it's allowed to happen and then it isn't dealt with.”