A BIRD of prey is the latest recruit of a shopping centre to help deal with nuisance from other birds.

Workington's Washington Square hired Bullet, a Harris Hawk, in the hope it will deter pigeons and seagulls from nesting in the area.

Richard Ashcroft, centre manager, said: "We have a massive issue at this time of year with seagulls and pigeons coming into town to nest, they see the place as an easy food source. The associated mess is a health hazard and especially for shops that deal with food, the last thing you want is pigeon muck everywhere."

Bullet is currently being trained and it is hoped his presence alone will act as a deterrent. Richard said the 17-week old Harris Hawk is being trained on the shops' roofs and the plan is for it to fly around the area for a couple of hours, two-three times a week.

"I want to make it clear that Bullet won't be attacking neither the seagulls and pigeons nor children or pets, it's a very controlled sort of process.

"Bullet makes his presence known and that will hopefully make the seagulls and the pigeons go and nest elsewhere."

He added that seagulls were protected and it was illegal to cull them.

Mr Ashcroft said the system of using trained birds of prey has been used in Carlisle and parts of Lillyhall before.

The Washington Square Shopping Centre was advised by Natural England on the measures they could take to reduce nuisance from seagulls and pigeons.

It will take several months for Bullet to be fully trained and Mr Ashcroft hopes it will be effective right from the start of the next nesting season.

He added: "It hasn't happened this year, but seagulls have been known to attack people. It doesn't help that people feed them though.

"It's as though there was huge seagull calendar page somewhere, and on a day in late May they all come down at once. One day there are no seagulls, the next day there are millions of them looking for roofs to nest on.

"I know Bullet won't eradicate the problem but hopefully it will make the shopping experience better for people and the whole area will benefit."