Council advises: ‘Stop feeding seagulls’

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After receiving several letters in just a couple of weeks about seagulls pestering seaside diners and home-fed birds causing issues for neighbours, the Courier has looked at Argyll and Bute Council’s advice on dealing with nuisance gulls.

The council’s website states seagulls are becoming extremely attracted to seaside towns and villages as places to feed and rear their young.

It continues: ‘We urge people to stop feeding seagulls as the expert view is that these birds are scavengers which are thriving and putting both the public and other bird populations at risk.’

Where issues arise, the council’s main priorities are identifying the scale and area of the problem; adopting environmental measures to reduce food sources; and discouraging people who regularly feed scavenging birds.

The most common problems caused by the birds are listed as noise, when they call and by their heavy foot-falls, and mess from droppings falling on washing, gardens and people, as well as damage to property when gulls pick at roofing materials or nest in gutters.

More serious problems include birds diving and swooping on people and pets, and blocked gas flues caused by nesting materials which can have serious consequences if gas fumes are stopped from venting properly.

The council has no statutory duty to take action against gulls and the law states it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird or interfere with its nest or eggs, which includes gulls.

However, it is recognised that there are particular circumstances, for example to protect public health and safety, where the Scottish Government and Scottish National Heritage can issue licenses defined in wildlife legislation, but it is only the owner or occupier, or someone acting on with behalf and with their permission, who can take action when gulls are nesting on their property.

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 licence.

The council lists the best methods for controlling gulls as: Proofing – including the use of spikes, nets or wires; Education – gulls are opportunistic and will scavenge waste bins and look for food. It’s important that the public are made aware that gulls are attracted to areas where food is plentiful; Not feeding gulls at home or in areas such as parks and other open spaces; Ensuring litter and other food waste is properly stored and/or disposed of using the bins provided; Putting waste – particularly food waste – out for collection on the day of collection and not the night before.

The council ‘strongly advises’ all owners or occupiers of buildings which have, or may attract, roof-nesting herring gulls to provide the building with deterrent measures suitable to the individual building.

The principal methods to deter gulls are: Fitting spikes to nesting locations like chimney stacks and guards; Fitting spikes contained in a special plastic base to nesting locations such as dormer roofs; Fitting wires and nets to prevent herring gulls landing; and disturbance of nesting sites including removal of nests and eggs.

For more information, visit Argyll and Bute Council’s website.