A PARTRIDGE and a hawk have joined forces to keep the pitch at Sunderland AFC's Stadium of Light in perfect condition.

The football club has welcomed back the red-tailed hawk, Red, who is guarding the pitch while the grass grows in preparation for the new season in August.

The two-year-old bird visited the Black Cats last year when the pitch was re-seeded, and spent several weeks scaring away seagulls and pigeons which would have eaten the newly-sown seed.

Groundsman Adrian Partridge said: "Since last summer, Red has grown up a bit and his plumage has turned a deep red shade.

"He really enjoys his visits to the stadium and he certainly helps us while we are working on the pitch."

Red is usually tethered while he is at the club, and his presence ensures that other birds do not fly on to the pitch.

He gets plenty of exercise by flying around the stadium when his owner, Kevin Yule, from Pennywell, Sunderland, visits him.