Summer disruption as gulls terrorise coastal business districts

Holidaymakers and coastal city-dwellers have been warned to be on their guard against airborne attack – by fearless seagulls.

Attacks by sea birds are reported every summer throughout the UK. In Dundee, 73-year-old pensioner Christine Kerr was slashed in the face by a gull and had to be taken to hospital.

Unfortunately, gulls are also targets for attacks by humans. Many have stones thrown at them, others left homeless after their nests are illegally destroyed and large numbers are the target of people taking pot shots at them with airguns.

PestSafe Services specialises in ridding businesses and homes of the airborne pests by bird-proofing buildings.

Using humane methods to deal with nuisance gulls
“Seagulls are no longer afraid of humans,” says PestSafe Services Technical Director Gulliver Hill. “They frequently ‘dive bomb’ people to steal their food and this in itself can be frightening. Gulls and their nests are protected so we must learn to live with them.

“For businesses suffering the effects of nuisance gulls, including fouling and constant loud noise, we have humane methods of dealing with them.”

Understanding seagull psychology
It’s important to understand the bird-brained psychology behind the attacks. Gulls are not especially aggressive birds, however, in May and June, they are nesting.

“The gulls are trying to protect their offspring. If people or animals come too close to a nest the gulls will view them as a threat and try to scare them away,” says Gulliver Hill.

“Herring Gulls in particular are large birds and they will use their body weight to swoop down on an unsuspecting person or animal. If individual scare tactics don’t work they’ll call other birds to join them.”

Bird-proofing business premises
People have used a variety of methods to scare seagulls away, including using plastic model owls and birds of prey, or loud alarms. But the gulls quickly become used to them and they lose their effectiveness as deterrents.

The most effective way of stopping seagulls making a nuisance of themselves to staff and customers is to prevent them from building a nest on the property. PestSafe Services uses bird netting and bird spikes to create physical barriers. They are attached unobtrusively to the outsides of buildings and to roofs – anywhere a gull might perch – and prevent the birds from settling. The birds are not harmed.

Don’t feed the birds
“One of the difficulties is that some people don’t understand what a nuisance gulls can be,” says Gulliver, “so they feed them. This encourages the gulls to see people as a source of food.

“Gulls will also check out uncovered rubbish bins and discarded food and other litter to see if there is anything good to eat.

“It’s very important to make sure that litter, especially from takeaway and coffee outlets, is not left anywhere near your business premises. Speak to neighbouring business owners and see whether you can all work together. We can help you ‘gull-proof’ your bins as well as your building,” says Gulliver.

Keep an umbrella handy
The RSPCA warns businesses not to take matters into their own hands: “Gulls and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure wild birds. Action can only be taken against them under licence.

“Herring gulls in particular are a species of conservation concern in the UK and evidence indicates that overall herring gull populations are actually in decline.”

Advice from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is to keep an umbrella handy:

“If you’ve got a gull nesting on your roof with youngsters, try to avoid the area. If you absolutely can’t avoid the area, anything held above your head will stop the birds swooping at you. Just use an umbrella to protect yourself.

Waving your hands at the birds is not a good plan. That will just annoy them.”

With help from PestSafe Services and a proper bird-proofing solution, the only time you’ll need an umbrella in future is when it rains.