Over the past decade Herring gulls have gradually been moving inland. Attracted by easy pickings of takeaway food these chip-stealing opportunists are shunning the seaside for the cliff-like terrain of the urban landscape. Large gull colonies are now present in Cardiff, Bristol, Gloucester and Aberdeen.
Herring gulls show no particular preference for their fishy namesake and will scavenge from garbage dumps, landfill sites, and sewage outflows. Refuse can comprise half their diet but the ominivorous scavengers will also steal the eggs and young of other birds, including those of other gulls which may in part explain why Herring gulls have been in moderate decline over the past 25 years. The reduction in fishing around the UK may also explain why gulls are heading inland.
Gulls are large, vocal birds which can be intimidating when they approach in flocks or swoop towards your sandwich at high speed and in winter the problem gets worse when the numbers of Herring gulls in the UK swells from 139,000 to 730,000 pairs seeking refuge from the icy Scandinavian and Baltic winter. The result can be a very vocal competition for food.
In urban areas Herring gulls grow bolder and can present a nuisance. They are capable of tearing open a bin liner and inviting the rest of the flock and other rodent friends to an open buffet. With the warmth and safety rooftops offer, along with an abundant food source left by sloppy human habits it’s likely that in the next decade we’ll see more gulls in our cities. You really don’t want them moving onto your rooftop because they are early birds and start becoming very vocal at first light!
Hang onto your lunch or take some bird control advice.