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Seagulls

There are two main types of breading gull species in our district, these are the Herring Gull and the Lesser Black-backed Gull.

  • The Herring gull has a white head, under parts and tail, yellow bills with silvery grey back and pink legs.
  • The Lesser Black-backed gull has a white head, under parts, tail and yellow bill, with slate-grey back and yellow legs.

Habitat

More and more gulls are moving into built up areas to nest. The main reason for this is that food sources are readily available both from people deliberately feeding them, from takeaway foods and other refuse strewn around roads and streets.

Breeding pairs court in April and start nest building from early May onwards. In towns the nests can be constructed from straw, grass, twigs, paper and any other material the gull can conveniently use. These nests can be large and if they are made of material collected over several years, they can become  heavy. This means that if a breeding site is established, then the gulls will return year after year.

Nuisance and Health Risk

Many people find gulls to be a nuisance for several reasons but the main ones are listed below:

  • Noise caused by gulls calling and their heavy footsteps.
  • Mess caused by their droppings fouling washing, cars, gardens, people and walkways.
  • Damage to properties caused by gulls picking at roofing materials and by nests which block guttering or hold moisture against a building.
  • Birds dive-bombing and swooping on animals and people.
  • Gas flues becoming blocked by nesting materials which can have serious consequences if gas fumes are prevented from escaping effectively.
  • Mites and other insects can become established in houses from old, abandoned nests once chicks have fledged.

Life Cycle

Eggs are laid from early May onwards with 2 or 3 being the usual number. The eggs take about three weeks to hatch, which means the first chicks are seen around the beginning of June.

The chicks grow quickly and are active, which means that they often fall from their nests. In town this often means that they are unable to return to their nests. Small chicks will die if they are not returned, but the larger chicks will be protected by their parents and fed on the ground. The chicks generally fledge in August and then take about three years to reach maturity when they in turn will start to breed. The life expectancy for gulls can be up to 20 years.

Gulls are social creatures and once roof nesting becomes established, other gulls will start to move in to an area and nest on adjacent buildings, until their numbers build up enough that a colony is established

Control

Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, though licences are issued by Natural England to allow landowners or occupiers to humanely control certain species or remove their nests and eggs.

The best method to prevent gulls from nesting on your property is to proof against the birds so the nests are not built in the future.

Proofing materials that can be used are:

  • Spikes on chimney pots, gutters, dormers etc.
  • Nets of the correct size to repel gulls;
  • Post and Spring Wires.
  • Avisnock Electric Wire.

Food sources should be restricted, dispose of edible litter carefully and put gull proof lids on bins where possible. Plastic bin bags on streets are an open invitation for gulls. Do not feed seagulls as this will attract gulls to your area and also rats. Gulls may also learn to snatch food.

Egg replacement programme

The Council intends to reintroduce an egg replacement program for the 2021 breeding season, focusing on problematic urban areas. This involves accessing the flat roofs within town centres and substituting real eggs in the nest with replacement plastic sand filled eggs. The gulls will continue to sit and incubate these eggs; results have shown that they are less likely to reject the eggs as not being their own and relay new eggs. Noise nuisance and aggression associated with the breeding seasons also reduces.

The aim of this programme is to reduce gull numbers in urban areas and to stop the predicted rise in colony numbers in future years. If you would like further information on the egg replacement programme please contact Environmental Health our general enquiries online form.