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If you believe everything you read in UK tabloid newspapers then you will be under the impression that the British Isles are under siege from out of control seagulls. Throughout the summer there have been repeated, sensational reports of people besieged and attacked by seagulls including postal workers in Cardiff. And alleged pollution from seagulls even led one seaside local authority (Worthing) to employ falconers to scare them away, but this plan was subsequently dropped.
There is no doubt that noisy and sometimes aggressive seagulls can be a nuisance but are they really as big a problem as the tabloid press would have us believe? And what can we do if we’re troubled by them?
All gulls are protected by law. Like all wild birds, gulls and their eggs and nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The lethal control (killing) of seagulls and other wild birds in the UK is legislated by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It is illegal to kill or injure any wild bird, including pigeons and seagulls, unless general licensing regulations are complied with.
And UK courts take acts of cruelty inflicted on seagulls very seriously, as was demonstrated in the case of Andrew Lee Jones from South Wales who was jailed for 12 weeks after being caught on CCTV viciously attacking and killing a gull.
There have been many worrying reports in the tabloid press of people suffering scary experiences due to seagulls.
An elderly couple from Morecombe were effectively prevented from leaving their home by irate seagulls. A pair of nesting Herring gulls had raised two chicks which had somehow found themselves on the roof of the porch. Every time the homeowners tried to leave their property they were attacked by the birds, due to their natural, protective instinct. Herring Gulls are protected when nesting so there was very little that the home owners could do. Local authorities advised homeowners who are troubled by gulls to bird proof their properties ahead of the breeding season.
In July 2019 reports appeared in the press describing how a seagull had allegedly swooped into a garden in Paignton, Devon and took the families pet miniature chihuahua named Gizmo. The family issued an emotional appeal for people to look out for their much loved pet. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said:
“Fortunately these types of incidents are very rare and not typical gull behaviour.”
But this gull attack on a dog is not an isolated report. Back in 2015 a Yorkshire Terrier named Roo was reportedly pecked to death by a flock of marauding seagulls. The dog had been playing happily in the back garden when the herring gulls swooped and savagely attacked the dog causing him to suffer severe head wounds.
Aggressive seagulls have been reported in seaside towns up and down the UK. They boldly steal ice creams right out of the hands of holidaymakers and will even land on a table and steal food from people’s plates.
Not surprisingly, many residents of seaside towns have called for a cull. Some people are even breaking the law by poisoning seagulls, to make their point.
Many people have gained the misimpression that gulls will attack humans for no reason. This is not true. Humans are much bigger, much more powerful and very scary to seagulls - so if they attack, they have a very good reason too.
There are basically two key reasons why gulls annoy and possibly attack humans: nesting and the need for food.
Gulls like to build their nests and raise their young in high, safe, quiet areas away from any predators. Occasionally, but very rarely, they will nest at ground level. Before their young can fly they come down from the nest and spend a week or two on the ground.
Like all animals, seagulls will naturally protect their young both when they are in the nest and when they have ventured onto the ground. If humans go near their nests or their young while they are on the ground then the adult birds will attempt to protect their offspring. They do this by flying above, circling around and then swooping down. If there is a group of them they may feel a little bolder and may actually make contact when they dive. This is the behaviour that many people describe when they report being attacked by seagulls.
The other main cause for seagull trouble for humans is when they want food. Seagulls have adapted to take advantage of our modern lifestyles. They are drawn to rubbish tips and landfill sites where they find food thrown away by humans. This is also the key reason why seaside town seafronts are often plagued by what appear to be aggressive gulls.
This is why, if you are eating outdoors in an area populated by seagulls, you are likely to attract some unwelcome attention from the birds. They are not purposely going out of their way to attack you - they simply want something to eat.
When it comes to dealing with gull issues prevention is by far the most effective approach. Culling birds might appear to be a solution, but it will be short-lived and the birds will return if inadequate precautions are not established.
If there are seagulls nesting somewhere then the best precaution is to simply keep out of their way. Under no circumstances interfere with their nests as this is illegal and will likely result in the gulls attacking you. If you keep away from the area in which seagulls are nesting they will not attack you.
To avoid attracting aggressive, hungry seagulls it’s best to keep food completely out of sight. This can be a challenge if you were planning a beach picnic but using resealable food containers and only taking out what you are about to consume can help. When eating, keep the food close to you. Remember that seagulls are far more scared of you so by keeping your valuable food close the gulls are more likely not to take a chance. And always remember that its your food they want, not you. A new study conducted by the University of Exeter demonstrated that gulls are more likely to steal food if they can avoid the gaze of their victims. So you might be able to discourage the feathered muggers by staring at them.
If seagulls nest on your rooftops or around your home, then you may be looking for ways to discourage them. Luckily there are many, highly effective, low cost tactics that will minimise the nuisance these birds present.
Seagull spikes have been tried and tested in many situations. Seagull deterrent spikes are longer than similar Pigeon Spikes as the birds are larger. The spikes themselves are manufactured from stainless steel, as gulls easily bite off the polycarbonate spikes used for pigeon spikes. Both Seagull Spikes and Pigeon Spikes are available in strips which are easily installed in areas where birds tend to nest.
Another highly effective deterrent is Bird Free Fire gel which is totally harmless to birds. The gel exploits the fact that birds can see ultraviolet light and the harmless gel appears to them to be fire so they don’t land. It’s been effectively used in many challenging situations where bird nesting has been a repeated, annual problem. The gel formulation is easy to apply, doesn’t run and doesn’t simply wash off in the rain. It continues to be effective for up to 3 years without the need for re-application.
If you have any questions regarding seagull and bird deterrents remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll give you some free, expert advice.
This message was added on Thursday 5th December 2019
Need Help or Advice?
Call the Insight team
01273 475 500