Posted 17th March
The arrival of March is widely welcomed by many, officially heralding the start of spring
However, it also marks the arrival of a problem for a number of residents and businesses, as it also marks the start of seagull breeding season. The breeding season has started as the birds are returning to their favoured nesting sites in the UK, having wintered in southern Europe.
This has prompted the environmental consultancy NBC Environment to urge organisations to take action before the annual influx of gulls can occur this year.
The UK population of gulls is rapidly increasing, with rooftop nesting having quadrupled over the past 15 year. When nesting, birds will bring the previous year's offspring with them to the same sites, leading to the growth of multi-generational colonies. On a year on year basis too, related issues have increased, with nesting colonies becoming established, and eggs beginning to hatch from late May.
In February, the issue of gulls was raised for the first time since 2015, when David Cameron called for a 'big conversation' about the birds. MPs from communities across the country debated what measures could be taken to address the various problems occurring when nesting sites are established alongside humans.
John Dickson, the managing director of NBC Environment, said: "It is good to see the matter of gull management being addressed proactively, rather than waiting for the inevitable cycle of media scare-stories about gull attacks in the summer months. The majority of those taking part in the debate represented coastal areas. Notably Derek Thomas, MP for St. Ives, spoke to address the case of a teenager who narrowly avoided critical injury after falling off a sea wall during a gull mugging in July last year. As this high-profile incident goes to show, despite the lurid reporting, that it is just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt."
Gull attacks, coupled with the noise and mess created by the birds, is an increasingly real concern for businesses and public sector organisations alike. Despite growing calls for a cull, UK birds are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. NBC Environment is advocating the use of humane methods, such as egg and nest removal, along with falconry to modify the behaviour of the birds.
These non-lethal tactics have been designed to encourage the gulls to set up colonies that are in more appropriate habitats where they're less likely to come into conflict with humans.
John Dickson added: "We work hard to balance commercial and public safety objectives with ecological responsibility. It would be entirely wrong to characterise gulls merely as pests. Rather, the problem lies in where they are choosing to nest. This impacts both the public and private sectors. Over and above the damage to property, organisations could potentially take the brunt of any litigation from anyone who suffers ill-health or injury on account of gulls, for example as a result of aggressive behaviour, or a slip on faeces."
"This doesn’t warrant a cull though. We need to remember that many species, including herring gulls, are in decline across Europe and we are bound by EU and international laws to protect them. Gull populations are on the rebound in the UK thanks to this forward-looking wildlife legislation and it makes no sense to reverse good conservation work. The fact MPs are now calling for an annual ‘seagull (sic) summit’ and a national study is very positive because it suggests they are looking for long term solutions instead of simply reacting to sensationalised stories."
The eggs will start to hatch in May and June - once this happens, the chicks will be protected by environmental legislation.