Residents asked not to feed gulls

People are asked not to leave food out for gulls in their gardens or feed them in other places as it encourages the birds to congregate and steal food.

The advice features in an e-leaflet about how to deal with birds as they are in the early stages of nesting around the city.

Numbers of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls have grown in Aberdeen as in many urban areas around the country, and some residents and visitors regard them as a nuisance. At the same time, numbers of herring gulls have suffered a massive population decline in their natural habitat of coastal grasslands.

Some of the problems associated with gulls in urban areas include noise, damage to property, and safety. Every year, Aberdeen City Councils receive dozens of complaints regarding all these issues. In 2020, there were 105 complaints, in 2019 there were 139 and 147 in 2018.

It should be emphasised Aberdeen City Council’s environmental health service has no statutory powers to take action against the gulls and can only give advice to members of the public as to how they can help deal with the problem.

The problems with the gulls usually starts in March and continues until September while they are nesting in roofs although there are increasing numbers choosing to remain in the city all year round. Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which means it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird, or interfere with its nest or eggs, unless you have a licence.

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “While there hasn’t been people discarding unwanted food and containers in the city centre due to lockdown, other areas of the city have been affected. In addition, people are also deliberately feeding the gulls in their gardens or at the beachfront.

“Our environmental health service has no legislative powers to take action against the gulls and the key to reducing gull numbers lies in reducing the ability to breed and limiting the supply of food.

“In addition, too much human food is not good for them and can lead to them attacking people to steal food. Their natural diet is based on shellfish, other small sea creatures, earth worms, bird’s eggs and insects.

“We’d encourage people to heed the advice given below and play their part particularly not to feed the birds.”

Advice for residents how they can help includes:

  • Do not feed gulls on streets and gardens or drop food scraps, as gulls are scavengers and discarded food encourages the gulls to stay within close proximity to the food source. Dispose of food waste in a responsible manner;
  • Property owners can discourage gulls from nesting by erecting deterrent devices on chimney heads and flat roof areas such as spikes and nets;
  • You can arrange for an appropriately licenced pest control company to oil or pierce eggs to prevent hatching, or have the nest and eggs removed.

The licence system can only be used for the purpose of preserving public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease and is specifically for the control of herring, great black backed gulls and lesser black backed gulls. If action is taken for any other reason, or if another species of gull is targeted, then an offence has been committed.

Businesses with netting on their roofs to discourage birds should be aware the netting should be checked daily for any gaps or entangled birds. They should have a way of releasing the birds, without calling the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

More information can be found at the City Council website at https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2018-05/Living%20with%20Urban%20Gulls.pdf