Being surrounded by birds has always been a joy for Richard Cookson.
The 36-year-old from Bamber Bridge runs Lancashire Bird Control, which uses birds of prey to deter pest birds such as seagulls and pigeons away from properties before they have fully nested.
It also looks at building maintenance and use of other physical barriers to help move pests on.
The firm, which has been going for two years, has already gained a good reputation and was recently shortlisted in The Small Company of the Year category at The British Pest Management Awards 2019.
For Richard, this is more of a passion than just a business, as he has always had birds of prey in his life.
He says: “I love birds of prey. When I was a child I used to love rescuing animals and over the past 10 to 15 years, I got more and more animals.
“When you first get a bird, they don’t want anything to do with you but as they get used to their surroundings you create an unbelievable bond and they trust you. As you are the food provider you can train the bird and then watch it fly and come back to you
“Watching a falcon fly at 100m high is so amazing. You see their natural behaviours in a captive environment.
“You really should not get too close to falcons, but it is such a privilege to do so and that is what I enjoy the most.”
Using his passion for falconry, he initially launched Cuerden Birds of Prey in 2009, attending events and fairs with his falconry displays.
But when there was a case of Avian flu which affected birds three years ago, he changed direction and set up a pest control firm with his wife Carley.
With his first display company, Richard owned 40 birds, but now he has just eight falcons and Harris Hawks.
He says: “I loved educating people about the birds and attending events. I have displayed in front of members of the Royal family, and a few celebrities who attend these shows.
“I loved the adrenalin of it all. It was brilliant doing something I loved and meeting people who have an interest in it.
“The children love it and some of them have never seen a bird before.
“Three years ago there was Avian flu going around and our birds were grounded for three months. We never wanted to give up, but we had to make a decision and make changes.
“So we set up Lancashire Bird Control and have more of a purpose.
“We use certain birds of prey to deter pest birds such as seagulls and pigeons. We fly them in their natural environment as a friendly way of pushing pest birds, which create health issues, out of the area before nesting occurs.
“Our birds act as predators and the pest birds don’t like it and move on. We still talk to people and educate them about bird control.”
One common issue is an infection from pigeon droppings, from a fungus called cryptococcus, which has killed two people in Scotland.
Richard adds: “As more properties are being built, this issue is happening more as feral pigeons have to go somewhere. But they are carrying diseases and so they need to be moved on.
“A lot of companies have problems with feral and pest birds and we can help them.”
A love of birds is a shared family experience, as he works with his brother James and brother-in-law Steven Lakeland and his three children treat the birds like one of the family.
Richard adds: “The children are used to the birds as it is all they have known. Their cousins adore the birds as their dad, Steven works for me. We sponsor Preston North End and go on Deepdale a lot so when the kids see the birds, they get really excited.”
Common signs of infestation include:
Birds settling: on or around the premises, cables, wires, roofs, ledges
Droppings: on the building, inside the building, on goods, on vehicles, on pathways
Nests: on roofs, ledges, gutters, roof spaces and internal beams
Nest and feather debris: around the premises, in gutters, damage from blocked gutters i.e damp walls and ceiling from water ingress
Stock damage: pecking and dropping
Dead birds on the floor or blocking your gutters and downspouts