Issues and Concerns Caused by Gulls
Generally speaking gulls tend to be relatively quiet whilst sitting on eggs, but can become very raucous once the eggs have hatched and at this stage they become far more aggressive towards people.
The only acceptable reasons for removal of eggs / nestling / might include a nest being situated so as to cause a blockage of a chimney or flue, droppings from a nest blocking a gutter, causing water and gull excrement to fall to the path below and creating a slip hazard.
Bird droppings carry many diseases transmissible to humans, including thrush, E. coli and salmonella poisoning, not things you would want in or around schools, hospitals, food handling areas etc. Seagulls also carry a range of ecto-parasites (including bed-bugs, fleas and ticks) and these are also known to affect humans.
Public safety, maybe put at risk if a gull decides people walking down a street are too close to its nest and dive bombs them causing potential injury.
Some aspects of gull behaviour, i.e making a raucous noise very early in the morning, taking food from (and generally harassing) people, can be a serious nuisance they are not however, permitted as a reasonable basis to cull gulls or to take eggs / destroy nests.
Red Listed – Herring Gull.
There is a great deal of uncertainty over the Herring gull population numbers, some estimate that numbers have fallen 40% since the 1970's others that the gulls are increasing at around 13% per year, I only know that there seems to be a major problem in almost every Town and City (whether coastal or not) throughout the UK, these problems did not exist to the same extent 30 years ago....
Herring gulls are 'red-listed' birds. This means the RSPB consider their numbers to have plummeted in recent years. This is open to debate, but the upshot is that neither chicks, or adult birds can be touched without a 'special license'. I cannot assist you with this. Please do NOT contact me if you have a problem with chicks / aggressive adults. Natural England (Bristol) is your only port of call. Your only recourse is to contact Natural England (Tel: 0300 060 3900) and discuss your reasons for wanting the license with them. You may, or far more likely, will NOT be successful. The clear message is prevention is better than cure. So check for nests from late March onwards and contact me ASAP. Do NOT delay.
If you know or think you have a gull nest that might be a potential problem, do not wait until the eggs have hatched. Knowingly allowing this to happen is laziness and often the problem cannot be remedied and you will have to suffer the consequences.
Please do NOT contact us if chicks have fallen off of a roof, or other structure. I cannot assist you. If the birds are in danger, ring your local RSPCA office (01637 881455), if they are not in danger, simply leave them alone.
Which Species of Gull can cause a problem?
The main species of gull that nest on roofs and dwellings are the Herring Gull and the Lesser Black Backed Gull, they are very similar in size and appearance the main distinguishing factor is the herring gull has pink legs and the Lesser Black Backed Gull has yellow legs (there is actually a form of Herring gull with yellow legs, but it is not found in the Southwest), very rarely a Greater Black Backed Gull will be found. These are enormous birds. They are rare and should not be disturbed.
Further information on each of these species is found below.
Herring Gull (larus argentatus)
The male Herring Gull is 60-66 cm (24-26 in) long and weighs 1050-1250 grams (2.3-2.8 lb) while the female is 55-62 cm (22-24.5 in) and weighs 800-980 grams (1.8-2.2 lb). The wingspan is 137-150 cm (54-59 in). Adults in breeding plumage have a grey back and upper wings and white head and underparts. The wingtips are black with white spots known as "mirrors". The bill is yellow with a red spot and there is a ring of bare yellow skin around the pale eye. The legs are normally pink at all ages but can be yellowish, particularly in the Baltic population. Non-breeding adults have brown streaks on the head and neck.
Male and female plumage is identical at all stages of development; however adult males are often larger.
Flocks have a loose pecking order, based on size, aggressiveness and physical strength. Communication between these birds is complex and highly-developed - employing both calls and body language.
Unlike many flocking birds, Herring Gulls do not engage in social grooming and keep physical contact between individuals to a minimum. Outside of the male/female and parent/chick relationship, each Herring Gull attempts to maintain a respectful 'safe distance' from others of its kind. Any breach of this results in fighting, though severe injuries are seldom inflicted.
These are omnivores and opportunists like most Larus gulls, and will scavenge from garbage dumps, landfill sites, and sewage outflows, with refuse comprising up to half of the bird's diet. It also steals the eggs and young of other gulls, as well as seeking suitable small prey in fields on the coast or in urban areas. Two to four eggs, usually three, are laid often in colonies, and are defended vigorously by this large gull. The eggs are a dark blotched, olive color. They are normally laid in May but maybe as late as June, They are incubated for 28-30 days.
The young birds are able to fly 35-40 days after hatching. In reality this means they leave roofs around August each year. Herring Gulls are long lived, frequently up to 25 years with the oldest recorded at 49 yrs old.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
This species like the herring gull to which it is closely related, breeds colonially. As with Herring gulls three eggs are usually laid. They are similar in size to the Herring Gull or just slightly smaller. The only confusable species is the Great Black-backed Gull. The Lesser is a smaller bird, with slimmer build, yellow rather than pinkish legs and smaller white "mirrors" at the wing tips. The adults have black or dark grey wings and back. The bill is yellow with a red spot which young peck at, inducing feeding. The head is greyer in winter, unlike Great Black-backed. The call is a "laughing" cry like that of the Herring Gull, but with a markedly deeper pitch. Breeding season, egg colouration and incubation periods are very similar to the Herring gull. They are omnivores like most Larus gulls, and they will eat fish, insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, small mammals, eggs, small chicks, scraps and carrion.
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