Herring Gull Nuisance
Since the 1970’s the number of roof nesting gulls has steadily increased around the British Isles causing problems in many inland areas. As in the Isle of Man the main culprit is the Herring Gull.
Due to their increasing habit of roof top nesting, herring gulls are causing considerable nuisance, particularly during the breeding season throughout coastal and inland communities.
Herring Gulls are white with grey back and wing tips which have white spots. The yellow bill has a red spot towards the lower tip which is bright in breeding season and the legs and feet are flesh coloured. Young birds are a mottled grey and brown and are difficult to distinguish from other immature gull species. The grey back is apparent after the first year and full mature plumage is only acquired after 3-4 years.
Breeding pairs court in April and commence nest building from early May onwards. The nest can be quite large and if made of material accumulated over several years, very heavy. The eggs are laid from early May onwards with two or three being the usual number. The eggs take about three weeks to hatch so the first chicks are generally seen about the beginning of June. The chicks grow quickly and are very active which often results in them falling from the nest. In built up areas this almost certainly means that they can not return to the nest. They are then protected and fed by their parents on the ground causing the parent chicks to swoop on people and animals.
Chicks generally fledge in August and then take three to four years to reach maturity. The life expectancy of a herring gull is about twenty years.
Herring gulls tend to nest in colonies and once a roof nesting bird gains a foothold other herring gulls tend to nest on adjacent buildings. If left unchecked a colony will develop.
Many people who have gulls nesting on their or neighbouring roof tops find that they cause a problem, most commonly;
• Noise, caused by calling gulls and their heavy footsteps
• Mess, caused by their droppings, fouling of washing, gardens and people
• Damage to property, caused by gulls picking at roofing materials and by nests which block gutters and hold moisture against the building structure
Sometimes more serious problems occur such as:
• Birds can dive and swoop at people or pets. This usually occurs when chicks have fallen from the nest and adult birds attempt to prevent them coming to harm by frightening away potential threats
• Blockage of gas flues, valley and parapet gutters by nesting materials. The former can have serious consequences if gas fumes are prevented from venting properly, or if flooding occurs as a result of blocked gutters.
The principal legislation dealing with the control of birds is the Wildlife Act 1990. Generally it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird or interfere with its nests or eggs. However, only when there is a need to preserve public health or public safety authorised persons may take action, this does not include noisy gulls or gulls damaging property. No action may be taken unless the authorised person is satisfied that alternative methods to resolve the problem, such as scaring and proofing, are ineffective or impracticable.
Only the owner of a building or occupier can take action against the herring gulls on it, but they can give someone else permission to act on their behalf.
Colonies are undoubtedly encouraged to develop by regular feeding. If gulls are fed regularly it will create an artificially high population and encourage further breeding pairs to take up residence in the area. Additionally most of the foods artificially fed to gulls are a very poor substitute for their natural diet and this can harm them. It has been proven that artificially developed colonies are most commonly developed due to encouragement by feeding and that the best way to eradicate the urban nesting problem is by the prevention of feeding herring gulls.
Gulls will also scavenge readily on poorly stored household rubbish.
Preventative measures should be taken by owner occupiers to discourage roof top nesting by erecting appropriate netting or devices on chimney heads or flat roofing.
Due to the growing number of complaints received within the Parish of Braddan the Commissioners have resolved that Byelaws should be introduced to prevent the feeding of birds within any carriageway, footway, highway or road margin which will help to deter artificial colonies of herring gulls.
The Commissioners would also like to encourage residents to assist when feeding smaller garden birds within the boundaries of their property by using specific feeders, tables and bird houses which are impractical for herring gulls to access, and not to drop or cast large pieces of breed or other food stuff directly onto the ground as this will definitely attract herring gulls and may also attract vermin.
Further information can be obtained in the form of a leaflet from the Commissioners Offices or can be found in related items below.
A draft copy of the Byelaws to prevent the feeding of birds on public highways is also available online.