SOUTHERN Water have been hiring hawks to stop seagull droppings from polluting beaches.

The plan to rid Worthing beach of defecating gulls ruffled quite a few feathers, and angry residents called the police after seeing the hawk terrorising herring gulls in Worthing.

They were told by officials from the utility firm the gulls were being moved to stop their effluent contaminating bathing water.

But after the strategy caused a bit of a stink amongst residents accusing the utility firm of coming up with a bird-brained idea, Southern Water suspended the trial.

Last week Southern Water was fined £126 million for failings including polluting the environment with sewage.

Resident Tana Jackson told The Argus: “I noticed a group of three men, one of whom had a hawk on his arm. Another man was walking on the beach with another hawk on his arm waving it up and down making the bird flap its wings. The seagulls in the near vicinity were extremely distressed and were flying around and squawking in a terrible state.

“He told me he was from Southern Water and that they had hired the men with the birds of prey in order to move the seagulls along from the Heene Road beach as the water was being polluted with bird poop. I asked him if he was stupid as the beach and the sea are the natural habitat of the seagulls.

“I told him that the birds were clearly extremely distressed as they were protecting their chicks in the nest on the nearby rooftops.

“I believe that this incident is the most stupid act I have ever witnessed in my entire life. You simply could not make this up.”

After Mrs Jackson called the police she said she was contacted by wildlife officer PC Stuart Metcalfe who was very concerned as herring gulls are a protected species.

She added: “Who approved this ridiculous activity? Do Southern Water really believe that this is a good way of spending their time and money.”

Another resident who contacted The Argus after seeing the birds said: “I was walking along the prom when I saw these men with great big birds of prey. When Southern Water is being fined millions how do they think stopping seagulls pooing in the sea is going to lessen pollution?”

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “We have demonstrable evidence that bird pollution can affect the quality of bathing water. This work is part of our ongoing bathing water enhancement programme, which the public very much supports, and our aim is to tackle all the different pollution sources. The birds of prey used are tethered to a falconer’s arm, and is there to act as a positive visual deterrent.”