April 20, 2007 / 1:05 PM / 11 years ago

"Robofalcons" to take on UK city's pesky pigeons

LONDON (Reuters) - A flock of robotic falcons has been dispatched to tackle an influx of obese pigeons who are increasing in number and size thanks to an unnatural diet of fastfood.

The mechanical birds -- called ‘Robops’ -- have been placed on rooftop locations around the British city of Liverpool, and will flap their wings and squawk loudly to scare the problem pigeons away.

The initiative was launched to deal with the birds who are now considered a nuisance in the city, flying at people and leaving droppings everywhere, Liverpool council said.

The pigeon problem has been exacerbated by residents in the city feeding the birds -- whose natural diet is seeds and insects -- with take-away leftovers. “We need to get the message across that anyone who feeds the birds intentionally, or occasionally with leftovers such as sausage rolls or burgers, is responsible for our streets being so crowded with these birds,” Berni Turner, Liverpool city council’s executive member for the environment said.

The falcons, created by a Scottish company, resemble a Peregrine Falcon - which is a natural predator of pigeons.

As a result of the scaring techniques and people not feeding the birds, it is hoped that the pigeon population will move out of the city center and into Liverpool’s parks and green spaces.

The Council’s Environmental Health manager Andy Hull said that the scheme was an attempt to improve the health of the pigeons, as their current diet is unhealthy and dangerous.

However, experts have condemned the scheme, saying that the council needs to tackle the source of the problem, rather than the symptoms.

Emma Haskell, Director of PiCAS UK, the leading independent advisory body on the issue of bird control in Britain said her organization had done studies with mechanical deterrents and had found them to be completely ineffective.

“We believe that this is a complete waste of time...and a waste of money,” she said. “Pigeons are a highly intelligent bird and they soon realize that these mechanical things are not a threat.”

Liverpool has been named European Capital of Culture in 2008, but the city council currently uses the equivalent of 88 man-hours a day cleaning droppings from streets and buildings, at a cost of £160,000 a year.

“The robotic hawks are almost laughable as a method of control and the cost associated with buying and installing the product... simply cannot be justified,” PiCAS said.

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