beach gulls Gill Wild

Gill Wild

Seagulls are not ‘rats with wings’, but rather beautiful creatures who are excellent parents, and only steal chips and fast food, because they have increasingl lost their natural homes and food (fish). They are one of the few creatures with special glands that they can safely drink seawater, and in nature would live entirely by the sea.

At the beach, keep at least 50 metres away from coastal birds (if they fly away, this is wasting energy that could be spent feeding, they need extra space during high tide). Also keep to main paths when crossing dunes (this also helps dogs and you from having invasive pirri pirri burr attaching to skin, fur, clothes or shoelaces).

Start a volunteer beach clean-up to help remove all the rubbish commonly left on our seaside shores. And whether you eat fish or go fishing, learn about how to help prevent ghost fishing waste (hooks, nets and other rubbish left in the sea from the fishing industry).

Unless starving, don’t feed seagulls as it encourages them to come into contact with dogs, roads and people who don’t like them (it’s illegal to harm one, so report any concerns to wildlife crime unit – through Crimestoppers if you wish to remain anonymous).

If you see an injured or orphaned seagull, look around first, as parents are usually close by and tend to leave growing gulls for up to a few hours to find food (they are always watching). You can’t disturb them or nests, so call wildlife rescue for help or place in a box with punctured air-holes and take to your nearest vet, who will put them to sleep if needed, or rehab until rescuers arrive. Help Wildlife has advice.

PiCAS helps to humanely deter pigeons, gulls and doves, to deter unwanted visitors on roofs of houses, offices and hospitals. Their expertise methods are kind, cost less and work better than lethal control (illegal anyway for gulls). You can buy gull-proof sacks for waste and recycling, that are tipped into refuse lorries and then left for you to refill. Made from strong polythyrene, they can’t be ripped apart by gulls, rats or foxes, to spew contents out onto pavements and parks early mornings. Humane Wildlife Solutions gull helpline can also help.

For dive-bombing gulls, experts say the best solution is to encourage gulls to return to their natural home by the sea. Most birds that bomb you have eggs or hatchlings nearby, so give them space. If they do go for you (or your chips), wear a hat or use an umbrella.

The Gull Next Door is a portrait of a misunderstood bird. These beautiful birds (who naturally live on fish) often come inland simply to lack of fish and fast food litter. The author grew up in an English seaside town and is a passionate advocate for these underappreciated birds, and looks at how we can protect them. Also read Landfill, on how we should admire these intelligent birds and marvel at their ability to adapt, rather than see them as ice-cream stealers. Seagulls are scavengers but at a cost – many dead gulls being found with plastic, glass and cigarette butts in their stomachs.

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