The Open: Eagles are used to scare away troublesome seagulls

Situated on the east coast of Scotland, St. Andrews may be affectionately called “home of the golf course,” but it’s a residence shared by some very destructive roommates: seagulls.

While the spectators politely watch the silent signs held by the stewards as the players make their shots, the seabirds circling over the famous yellow leaderboard on the 18th hole make an impressive noise.

As they go out to get their food, the fear of being the wrong place to land their waste is a constant worry, and several employees and fans have already broken the rules.

However, not a single seagull is visible in the sky above the nearby food court and stands. This is the result of a successful recruitment by the organizers of the event: four birds of prey.

Fans traveling the Old Field during the week will get used to seeing a pair of hawks – a redback and a harris – an Indian eagle owl and a brown eagle.

Guardians named Enya, Nailer, Sage and Fearnley respectively mount their handler’s gloves to keep seagulls away from the picnic area and from the 1st and 18th stands.

Birds are flown in from a nearby elite falconry hired for the event, and trainer John is on duty at lunchtime on Thursday’s first round after a flurry of gull activity around the first tee in the early morning.

“Without us here, the seagulls would literally bomb people trying to steal their food,” John told CNN Sport.

Fearnley the red eagle with guide John of Elite Falconry, a company hired by R&A to keep troublesome seagulls off the Old Course at the 150th Open Championship.

Since gulls are not the typical cuisine of the four birds of prey, they do not fly around the track, but instead sit quietly on their handler’s glove during their entire watch, their presence alone is enough to prevent unwanted visitors.

Golf is not the only sport that uses birds of prey at events. At Wimbledon, Hawk Rufus has long been a local tennis hero for his efforts at the All England Tennis Club.

By protecting the courts from doves that pecked at grass seeds and could interfere with Grand Slam tennis, Rufus became something of a local hero in southwest London, and one superfan dressed up as a hawk at the 2017 championship.

If the organizers of the Open really want to improve their game, there are rumors that Tiger this week in a city that can scare golfers and seagulls alike.