Exeter City have introduced a five-year-old Harris Hawk to St James Park to help tackle a problem with pigeons at the ground.
Coya has been flying around the Park and hopping amongst the rafters in the IP Office Stand to scare pigeons from setting up home and breeding in the stadium.
Coya is owned by Finn Parker, the director of a small pest control company, just outside Exeter, called Bird and Pest South West. He explained the idea behind getting Coya into the stadium.
“Justin Quick the general manager at Exeter City contacted me because there was an on-going problem, even after the new stand was built, with resident pigeons taking up roost in the stadium, trying to breed and defecating and it was becoming a health and safety issue because you can’t have people slipping on the top of terraces.
"He asked if there was anything I could do. So, I came in and had a look and we agreed that I should fly one of my birds of prey.
"The idea is that because the stadium is quite attractive to the pigeons, because there are a lot of places for them to perch and roost and breed, and you have to start flying a bird of prey so they think that a bird of prey has taken this area as their hunting territory.
"Then instantly, it becomes far less attractive for them and after a while of flying a bird of prey around they start to look for alternative sites."
The problem of pigeons taking up roost in stadia is not just confined to Exeter City, with birds of prey working for many football clubs around the country.
“I know Portsmouth football club, the Emirates Stadium in London and Milton Keynes bowl all have the same thing,” explained Finn.
“It is quite an accepted way of dealing with the problem. It is an ideal situation for using harris hawks because harris hawks in the wild hunt from perch to perch.
“So once they get into the rafters, underneath the stand, they just hop about looking for anything they can chase or try and grab.
“And, even they don’t hunt and they just fly back to me the fact is that the birds that we are trying to get rid of have seen them and they instantly think ‘this place isn’t as attractive as I thought’.”
So how long will Coya be flying around St James Park to scare off pigeons?
“It is a persistence thing and every job is different,” said Finn. “You will find a place where pigeons have been breeding in considerable numbers for years and years it takes a lot more work to get rid of.
“There are a few here that are breeding about here and it will take a bit of time but the less pest birds you have generally the less time it takes.”