A Harris hawk has been released into the skies above Watford town centre to terrify pigeons away from the newly revamped Parade.

Watford Borough Council is cracking down on the feathery pests from today in an effort to prevent them soiling the £4.3million redevelopment.

Officials said the hawk, called Angel, has been trained not to maul the pigeons but only scare them away and described the method as the most "humane" available.

Angela Bigwood of A& M Hawk UK said: "The hawks will patrol the skies rather than hunt. We will keep them interested in the Parade area, but not motivated to predate other birds.

"Harris hawks are relatively timid and will not hunt anything much bigger or faster than them, but they will make urban pigeons feel suitably unwelcome."

Alongside its aerial assault, the council is also mounting an information campaign against town centre pigeons.

Alan Gough, the council’s head of community and customer services, added: "We want to keep the new Parade and Pond clean and tidy for all the family, and we felt the time was right to limit the numbers of urban pigeons in the Parade.

"By flying a Harris Hawk trained not to harm the pigeons, just deter them, we've found an effective but humane method of pest control."

Officers have been handing out leaflets encouraging people not to feed pigeons and the council has also commissioned a video, which compares the bird to rats.

The anti-pigeon initiative comes as the redevelopment of The Parade nears completion. Part of the project will see the northern end of the pedestrianised area de-cluttered and opened up to be used for cultural events.

Today the council also had a number of other birds on display alongside the Harris hawk including a great grey owl, a barn owl, a buzzard, a lanner falcon, and a Turkey Vulture named Inti.