Could a hawk spell the end to Norwich Market's gull problem?
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Calls have been made for a solution to be found to a chip-hungry winged problem that has blighted the city market for years.
Norwich Market's ever-evolving food offering has seen it cement itself as the very epicentre of the city's working lunch culture.
But as it becomes more attractive to hungry city workers, it too has turned into a more enticing prospect for dive-bombing gulls and peckish pigeons.
It is a problem market traders and punters alike are calling to be addressed, with the pest proving far from desirable company for diners, whatever they are tucking into.
And one solution could be to see a different type of air-dweller being called upon to get the issue sorted out - a pest-controlling hawk.
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Toby Westgarth, chairman of the Norwich Market Traders Association, said the gulls and pigeons had long proved a pain for stallholders.
He said: "The problem of gulls and pigeons has long been debated at many a meeting of the association, but it is difficult to know what the solution is.
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"If there's food around, there are gulls around and they tend to poo everywhere, which is far from hygienic, however, there are quite a few restrictions that prevent us from fully addressing the problem.
"I think they have always been very prevalent at the market - for a while you could only really get chips at the market but now we have so many different offerings and the more food you have on offer, the more gulls you will get.
"I think a hawk would be a great idea - and I'd love for the market traders to be involved in naming it if we did have one flown."
It is a tried and tested method in other parts of the country, which see the predatory birds flown from time to time to frighten the gulls and pigeons away.
And while Norwich already has a family of peregrines nesting on the Cathedral spire, their territory does not quite stretch into the marketplace, leaving gulls free too rule the roost.
One place that has put the method to the test is Lowestoft, which since 2017 has turned to a Harris hawk to address the chip-snatching birds, colloquially known as seagulls.
It was introduced by Lowestoft Vision and carried out by Norfolk Wild Encounters, and is the same approach famously used during the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
Simon Rouse, from Norfolk Wild Encounters, said it was "100pc the most effective way" of tackling winged pest - and that it is also the most environmentally and ecologically friendly approach.
He said: "The idea is not to kill any birds, although they do sometimes get hold of them. The idea though is to send the message to them that a raptor is about - and when they work that out they will always go elsewhere.
"It works incredibly well. I have done it in plenty of different places, such as Lowestoft town centre, around the UEA and most recently I've been helping at the Marina building site in Great Yarmouth.
"If you do it as a one off the gulls will come back, but if you do it fairly frequently to do it to begin with the gulls soon get the hint."
The Lenwade-based organisation has a roster of hawks he chooses from, with the majority of the heavy lifting done by two hawks called Ace and Dink - who would be more than happy to lend the city a hand.
View on the street
Carl Hughes, 61, who lives in the Plumstead Road area of Norwich, has called for something to be done about the gulls.
He said: "The gulls will fly straight through the market and there is always so many of them. I've heard of hawks being used to stop them. but they'll just end up somewhere else.
"I'm not sure what, but something needs to be done about them because they **** everywhere and it makes the place look bad."
James Lovett, 37, from Costessey, said: "I personally don't think they are that much of a nuisance, but I do worry about if children could be attacked by them.
"I work at Kettle Foods and we always see them around there in the mornings - they are quite noisy."
But for 69-year-old Sue Mitchell, who was in the market with her grandchildren, they were far from a bother.
She said: "They might be a nuisance for some people but for others they can be delightful - my grandson has loved seeing them around and chasing them.
"They are quite clever, they know where the food is going to be so that's where they're going to be too."