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Hawk handler to the stars hopes to eradicate Barking’s pigeon problem

PUBLISHED: 15:03 18 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:03 18 July 2016

Dale Atkinson and his Harris Hawk called Rico

Dale Atkinson and his Harris Hawk called Rico

Archant

With pigeons plaguing the town centre the council is taking action – by hiring a Harris Hawk to keep the winged menaces in check.

From today handler Dale Atkinson, 43, and his four-year-old hawk, Rico, will be based in the square outside Barking Town Hall twice a day to scare off pigeons that have been causing a nuisance to nearby residents.

A decision was made to employ the pest control officer, who works for JG Environmental, following a meeting between council officers and concerned residents.

While the site of a Harris Hawk in Clockhouse Avenue may seem a bit startling, Dale says Rico is merely used as a deterrent and it is uncommon for the animals to harm humans.

“It’s rare to hear of a hawk hurting someone although they can inflict some nasty damage with their talons,” said Dale, who is from North Hampton.

Deterring pigeons from public spaces is merely a part of the job for Dale and Rico, who have also worked in films alongside Hugh Jackman as well as helping Sir Elton John with a pest problem in his garden.

“I’ve been training him since the day he could fly,” Dale said.

Rico has already caught one bird this morning and will returning throughout the week to scare the pigeons away.

Cllr Lynda Rice said: “We will also intensify our street cleaning operations in the area and have spoken to local businesses about the dangers of feeding the pigeons, while we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The hawk deterrent will be used in affected areas across the borough for a period of five weeks.

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