Holyrood chiefs have been told they must stop people feeding pigeons at the Scottish Parliament if they are to deter the birds from making the building their home.
The firm which regularly flies birds of prey from the site to scare the pigeons away claims they are succeeding in keeping numbers down.
But they also reported seeing people feeding the pigeons and warned the parliament that such behaviour was undermining their efforts.
But one MSP said it would be virtually impossible to prevent members of the public from giving birds titbits and suggested the parliament learned to live with the pigeons.
The Holyrood building has been plagued by pigeons since before it opened in 2004. Its nooks and crannies proved a magnet for the birds, leading to a build-up of mess in certain areas.
Deep recesses in the MSP block proved a particular problem. Muck and feathers were blown through vents onto researchers’ desks and some birds even got into MSPs’ offices.
Various preventive measures, including netting, tripwires and spikes, were tried before the hawks and falcons were brought in a decade ago.
Monthly reports from Trac, which flies the birds of prey, chart the fluctuation in pigeon numbers from visit to visit.
For most of the past year they counted more pigeons at the start of their visits than the previous year, but the number always went down after the birds of prey were flown.
The September report on the pigeons said: “The continued use of the current programme will ensure the parliament campus is not one of their preferred roosting sites; however on September 10 people were seen feeding the pigeons on site which does not help the programme.”
And in October the report noted “extremely low” temperatures compared with previous months. “This has meant that the pigeons are now starting to look for areas to shelter. The use of a variety of hawk and falcons has continued to disrupt and dissuade them from viewing the parliament campus as a preferred site.”
But it added: “We must emphasise that all attempts to feed the pigeons in this current spell of cold weather be discouraged as the pigeons will depend on this source of food as the winter months begin.”
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs was not convinced such behaviour could be prevented. He said: “We encourage people to come to the parliament and we know people eat their lunch in the landscaped area outside so it’s no wonder the pigeons do well out of the visitors.
“I’m not sure how we could ever stop people feeding them.”