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Britain's number one pest | by brizzle born and bred
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Britain's number one pest

They're noisy, filthy, violent... and they're moving into a street near you. No, not gangs of teenagers, but the seagulls invading Britain's inland towns by their thousands.


En masse, the ear-splitting noise of them all shrieking at once, not to mention the mess their excrement makes of rooftops, pavements, cars, and windows, or the damage they do to buildings, and a flock of seagulls is an even more fearsome prospect.


Living by the seaside must be lovely, having fish and chips on the beach while watching the sun set on the ocean. Right?


Not so for residents of the Scottish seaside town of Newhaven, near Edinburgh, where residents are being attacked by increasingly violent seagulls.


These dive-bombing birds have been harrassing the Scottish townfolk to such a degree, they have begged local authorities and numerous action groups to organise a cull.


Their requests have all been rebuffed due to current legislation making such a move ‘extremely difficult’.


One terrified resident, Ellen Johnston, 57, explained how it affects her life: ‘I never leave the house without an umbrella and you can feel them bouncing off.


At the moment one of their young has fallen off the roof, and we are getting attacked even more. They grab your hair and swoop so close.’


Although the birds normally attack in pairs, there has been a sighting of five seagulls attacking just one victim.


A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council responded saying: ‘The city provides advice to residents about how to deter gulls from nesting on their properties and offers pest control services on a commercial basis.’


Residents have likened their treatment by these aggressive birds to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller The Birds starring Tippi Hedren.


Bristol's number one pest: Council sets aside extra £200,000 to tackle city's gull problem.


ATTACKING members of the public, stealing food and holding up building work are just a few of the reasons why seagulls are fast becoming Bristol's number one pest.


And it seems the city council is also at its wits end with the pesky birds, as it has allocated £200,000 to new measures to keep gulls in the city at bay using techniques such as hawks and falcons.


It comes after violent and aggressive seagulls in Cornwall made national headlines for pecking a small dog to death. But a Bristol gull expert has claimed urban gulls are a much bigger problem - and are breeding at an uncontrollable rate.


There are more than 2,500 pairs of breeding gulls in Bristol, and the population is thought to be rising at a rate of around 20 per cent a year.


The council is embarking on a 10 year city-wide egg replacement programme. But despite initial claims that this was the only "viable" option to try and control the problem, Bristol gull expert Peter Rock says the money would be better spent on research.


Mr Rock conducts his own gull research by attaching rings to their feet to monitor their behaviour. He said: "The council will be wasting their money with any measures involving birds of prey. There are peregrine falcons nesting around Bristol anyway, and that doesn't affect the gulls at all.


"We have really got to get to grips with what is going on with these birds. But the current measures being taken will not work in the long term. All they do is move the problem around.


"Urban gulls are breeding so successfully and we must monitor their behaviour to try and understand why - in the wild the number of gulls is dwindling, but it an urban environment they are thriving.


"Once we understand their habits and behaviour, we can come up with a more long term solution to help the problem."


And the problem in Bristol was highlight over the weekend, with this year's Harbourside Festival attracting hundreds of the unwanted visitors.


Dianne Smyth visits the festival every year from her home in Taunton, but said she felt seagulls had become a real issue at this year's event.


She told the Bristol Post: "As usual, it was a wonderful event with a lovely atmosphere. However, there was one thing that slightly ruined it for us this year- seagulls.


"As we have done in the past, we bought some food from one of the many stalls around and sat with our feet dangling over the harbour to enjoy it. We had been there for no more than a few moments before a huge seagull took a swoop at Dave, my husband. He didn't hurt him but seagulls are large birds and had he not seen it coming he could have easily been knocked into the water."


A Bristol City Council spokesperson said there was £200,000 available to explore techniques to control gulls: "Bristol City Council has an ongoing 10-year management programme aimed at reducing the number of gulls by replacing the gulls' eggs with substitute ones. This is strictly controlled by Natural England licence conditions.


"Results from a survey undertaken by the Animal and Plant Health Agency have showed that the programme has held off any significant increases in the gull population and there has been a slight decrease in the number of breeding pairs.


"There are no quick fixes to the gull issue and there are limitations to what action we can take due to licence conditions, but Bristol City Council is one of the few local authorities taking such action.


"We have £200,000 available for a wider gull programme which explores the use of other techniques, such as netting and using hawks and falcons, but we will only use this funding for the most cost-effective and successful methods."


2010 Gunmen shooting dead seagulls in their dozens.


Seagulls across Sussex are being shot and killed in their dozens. Bird protection groups have offered a £5,000 reward to catch the gunmen responsible for the deaths of up to 50 gulls in a string of attacks across the county in the last fortnight.


The birds are being cruelly shot down from rooftops but in some cases the maimed birds are not dying instantly but are plummeting from rooftops and then dying slow, painful deaths.


The National Seagull Rescue and Protection (NSRP) campaign has had to be called out to care for many of the injured birds.


In the last week the charity has been called in to care for two birds attacked in Hove and another one Brighton, one in Seaford, plus nine in Eastbourne.


Investigators believe the same people are repeatedly shooting at birds. Residents in the Hazlewood Avenue area of Eastbourne have reporting finding about 40 dead gulls in the last two weeks alone.


All 11 species of seagull found in Britain, including the most commonly seen herring gulls, are protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


Shooting a seagull is a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a £20,000 fine.


Anyone who lives anywhere near these noisy vermin will understand why someone could be driven to shooting them. Everyone is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their home.


2015 - A seagull has been poisoned and dumped in a police station yard in an apparent backlash against the birds following a recent spate of gull attacks.


Police and the RSPCA launched an investigation into the “senseless” poisoning in the seaside town of Bridport, Dorset.

It comes after David Cameron said he wanted to start a “big conversation” about an increase in attacks by the aggressive birds on people and pets.


Seagulls killed a dog in Newquay, Cornwall last week, leaving what was described as a sight “like a murder scene”, while a tortoise was pecked to death in nearby Liskeard.


MPs were prompted to call for a change in the law which would allow the protected status of the birds to be axed in order to able to control their population in urban areas.


2002 - A pensioner died after being attacked by seagulls in his garden. As the terror of overprotective gulls returns all round the UK, people are asking what can be done about them.


It's that time of year again when seagulls living in towns and cities can become very aggressive, with potentially dreadful consequences.


The tragic news that Wilfred Roby, an 80-year-old retired ambulance driver from Anglesey, died from a heart attack after being attacked by gulls in his back garden will surprise no-one who has been the victim of such an attack.


Mr Roby's death is the most extreme case in recent times, although last year there were reports of a woman being nearly "scalped" by the birds. Several dogs and cats have been killed by seagulls - actually herring gulls - which become over-protective of their young who are now leaving the nests.


And there's not much that can be done about it.


Emily Swift-Jones says her garden, in Brighton, has been made a no-go area for her boyfriend. The gulls which are nesting on the flat roof of an extension at the back of their house are content to let Emily into the garden, but have swooped down on her boyfriend and her dog.


"He says that the birds seem OK when you're looking at them from a distance, but that when they are swooping down on you, and the beak is about a foot away, it's a different matter. That's when you see Man Running Into House."


Another reader, John Shaw, from Liverpool, believes he was targeted for special attention by one gull in the city centre.


"Running down a street, wearing T-shirt and shorts, I was dive-bombed," he says. "Not content with one pass, it made a further two attacks. Worse was to come. On my return some 30 minutes later, the bird obviously recognised me, and made a further three swoops to scare me off. I can only presume that my different attire marked me out as different from the usual lunchtime pedestrians."




Similar tales come from Gwynedd, Dundee, Edinburgh, Bristol, Berwick, even central London where last year postal deliveries to one row of mews houses had to be suspended because the gulls ruled the roost.


So what can be done? The answer it seems is not much. It is against the law to kill seagulls or interfere with their nests, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.


If gulls pose a particular threat to health or safety, councils can conduct a cull - usually by shooting or poisoning. But few authorities take advantage of this right, as it tends to be an unpopular step.


Andy South, of the RSPB, expressed sympathy for Mr Roby and his family, and for anyone who was being attacked by gulls.


"Inevitably all the gulls are doing is protecting their own young, which is the same as any human would do. They are just being overprotective of their territory," he says.




In this period when birds can get aggressive, he says the best answer is for people to be patient.


"It's a relatively short-lived process, only about three to four weeks. What we would suggest is if people can be patient until the end of the breeding season, and once the young have flown the nest, then people should try to use preventative measures to stop them nesting in the same place, because otherwise they will do."


Those measures include putting down chicken wire to stop the birds from landing and thus preventing nesting.


But if you think the problem will just go away and the same won't happen next year, think again.


Gulls can live for 40 years, Andy South says, and start breeding when they are three. If they have nested successfully in one place, that is where they will try to nest again.


And in any case, the problem is getting worse. Urban seagulls are increasing at 7% a year.


"In seaside towns we have made their lives a bit easier. There have been changes to cliff-top habitats and gulls have spotted chimney pots as their next best bet.


"From there, they get good visibility, they are safe from other predators, and there are food sources around. In a sense you can't blame them."


Discarded take-aways are the infamous food source, but in places such as Brighton where the rubbish is still collected in black plastic bags, seagulls think of dustbin day as an excuse for a feast, pecking bags open and leaving waste strewn over the road.


For reasons that no-one quite knows, the population of herring gulls, which are such an integral part of the seaside sights and sounds, has dropped by 40% in the past 40 years.


Seagull Facts


In the UK, the term usually means herring gulls.


They can live until they are 40.


It is illegal to kill them, or disturb their nests or eggs (except under licence)


Seagull attacks


Are seagulls really aggressive? Have you ever been attacked by one?

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Taken on June 19, 2011