Appearance Herring gulls are large birds, measuring about 55cm (22″) from bill to tail with a wingspan of about 85cm (34″). They have a silver-grey back, white head, neck and underparts; black wing tips with white spots or patches; heavy looking bill with red spot on underside and flesh-coloured legs. Immature gulls are speckled brown and grey.
Breeding Breeding pairs court in April and commence nest building from early May onwards. In towns, the nest is constructed from straw and grass, twigs, paper and any other material the gull can conveniently use. The nest can be quite large and, if made of material accumulated over several years, very heavy. 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 quite active often falling from the nest. In towns this almost certainly means they cannot return to the nest. Small chicks will die unless returned but larger chicks will be protected and fed by their parents on the ground. Parent birds protecting fallen checks are often the ones which dive and swoop on people and animals who often do not realise a chick is down on the ground. Chicks generally fledge in August and then take three or four years to reach maturity and breed. The life expectancy of a herring gull which reaches maturity is about 20 years. Herring gulls tend to nest in colonies and once roof nesting birds gain a foothold other herring gulls nest on adjacent buildings. If left unchecked, a colony starts to develop.
Diet Herring gulls are omnivores and opportunists and will scavenge from rubbish dumps, landfill sites, and sewage outflows, with refuse comprising up to half of the bird’s diet. It also steals the eggs and young of other birds (including those of other gulls), as well as seeking suitable small prey in fields, on the coast or in urban areas. Herring Gulls may also dive from the surface of the water or engage in plunge diving in the pursuit of aquatic prey.
The Problem Many people who have gulls on their property find they cause a nuisance and commonly cited problems include: • Noise, caused by calling gulls and by 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 or hold moisture against the building structure • Birds can dive and swoop on people and 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
Control The principal legislation dealing with the control of birds is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Generally it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird or interfere with its nest or eggs. However, only when there is a need to preserve public health or public safety authorised persons may take, damage or destroy herring gull nests; or take or destroy herring gull eggs. 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. All owners/occupiers of buildings which have, or may attract, roof nesting herring gulls are strongly urged to provide the building with deterrent measures suitable to the individual building. If as many owners/occupiers as possible apply deterrent measures to their buildings, it may be possible to reduce or break up the colonies of birds.
For advice or further information on Herring Gulls in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth, call GRAHAM pest control today and we could help.
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