Gulls are a natural part of our country’s wildlife however their presence in urban areas has increased in recent years for a number of reasons such as the availability of good nest sites and discarded food.
Whilst gulls can be an attractive animal to observe in their natural environment, they can become a nuisance in towns and residential areas.
Problems associated with gulls
Gulls begin mating in April and nest from early May onwards. During this time they can be particularly noisy as they protect their young and ward potential predators off their nests. This can begin from sunrise and continue through the day.
Gulls can damage properties by picking at roofing materials and blocking gutters and down pipes with nesting materials. Blockage of gas flues from similar materials can have serious consequences if gas fumes are prevented from venting properly.
Gull faeces are highly concentrated in uric acid and act as a corrosive agent. This can damage vehicles, buildings and rooftop machinery. Their nests can also look unsightly in our towns and villages.
Gulls may carry a wide number of diseases, such as salmonella and tuberculosis, which are potentially fatal to humans. Their nests also provide the perfect environment for a variety of insects and parasites such as ticks, fleas and mites that can transmit various other bacteria and viruses, giving rise to health problems.
Gulls are often aggressive and can dive and swoop on people and pets. This usually occurs when chicks have fallen from the nest and adult birds attempt to prevent them coming to harm by frightening away potential threats.
Many gulls rely on scavenging human food waste to survive and so aggression will increase as they squabble over food leading to attacks on people as they swoop down and steal food.
Guidance on the Law
The Council has no statutory duty or powers to take action against gulls.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird or interfere with its nest or eggs and the penalties for disregarding the law can be severe.
However, it is recognised that there are particular circumstances where the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) can issue licenses defined in wildlife legislation. The licence system can only be used for the purpose of preserving public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease and is specifically for the control of Herring, Great Black Backed and Lesser Black Backed gulls.
Any action taken must be humane and the use of an inhumane method would be illegal. The use of poisons or drugs to take or kill any bird is specifically prohibited except under very special circumstances and again under specific license.
Tackling the issue
There is no quick fix to the problem of nuisance gulls and control measures need to be kept up for several years to be effective. The key to reducing gull numbers lies in the reducing the ability to breed and limiting the supply of food. Gulls pair and mate for life unless they fail to rear chicks whereby they will seek a new mate.
How YOU can help
Please do not feed the gulls or drop food scraps as discarded food encourages them to return.
They do not prosper on a diet of bread, chips and other scraps and quickly become a serious nuisance when they start pestering people for their next meal.
You can help by:
- Do not drop litter as this is an offence and you may be liable to a penalty.
- Do not attract gulls to your garden by feeding them. Their natural diet is based on shellfish, bird’s eggs, insects and earthworms and too much human food is harmful to them.
- Discourage gulls from your property by erecting deterrent devices such as spikes, wires or netting to chimneys or roofs.
- If gulls nest on your property, you can arrange for the eggs to be pierced or oiled to prevent hatching or have them removed and replaced with imitation eggs. However it is strongly recommended you seek advice from specialist companies before undertaking this.
For more information or advice contact Environmental Health on T. 028 9034 0160 or E. firstname.lastname@example.org