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Seagulls: How Clever are they?

 13 Aug 2019  Blog

It's a sad fact that many people look at seagulls as a nuisance. Although they're a familiar sight in every coastal resort, I think it’s fair to say that they aren't well-liked!

People complain about bird droppings soiling buildings, cars and washing lines. They moan that gulls go through rubbish, making a mess. There are claims that they've attacked people such as the postman, or stolen sandwiches out of people's hands.

Seagull

© nastyakamysheva / Adobe Stock

 

Seagull deterrents

There have been reports in the press about the things people are doing to deter seagulls. Some football clubs are enforcing a ban on feeding seagulls in the ground. Anyone who breaks the rule faces being thrown out!

Dumfries-based club Queen of the South, in the Scottish Championship, issued a message at the beginning of August before their first home game at Palmerston Park. Club chiefs said the birds were causing mess and nuisance at the ground.

They had tried playing bird of prey sounds over the stadium's speakers and even brought in red kites (a local bird of prey) with their handlers and had them flying over the stadium as a deterrent, but to no avail.

Finally, the club issued a statement warning supporters that anyone found feeding the gulls would be thrown out!

 

Private exterminator

In the coastal town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, local residents threatened to take the law into their own hands when they claimed the council wasn't doing enough about the "nuisance" seagulls, who had been accused of snatching food from people's hands.

The locals tried to employ a private exterminator to resolve the "crisis", but their bid at mob rule failed, as it was deemed a danger to public safety if a man with a gun started shooting at seagulls in the street.

Common sense prevailed when the council said people should live in harmony with the gulls - a feature of every port and coastal resort. It was pointed out the seagulls were swooping around, particularly active, because it was the nesting season, so they were simply feeding and protecting their young.

 

Clever birds

There are all sorts of reasons why people don't like seagulls - but on the contrary, they are very clever and loyal birds and don't deserve their bad reputation! Anyone living on the coast should understand that there will be gulls around.

According to scientific research, seagulls are intelligent birds and are learning all the time. Once they have learned something useful, they remember it and will even pass on behaviour patterns.

For example, have you ever seen gulls stamping their feet on the ground in a group? Scientists say this is to imitate rainfall, so the earthworms are tricked into coming to the surface - the gulls can have a feast!

There are numerous feeding behaviours that demonstrate the gulls' intelligence. They will drop hard-shelled molluscs on rocks to break open the shells, while they will follow ploughs across fields in the knowledge that disturbed grubs and other food sources will come to the surface.

They can also be seen hovering in mid-air above bridges. Scientists say this is to conserve their energy, as heat rises from the paved roads with vehicles passing over them all day long, helping the birds to simply float.

 

Caring parents

Seagulls are caring and attentive parents. Male and female gulls mate for life and take it in turns to incubate the eggs, feeding and protecting the chicks.

Young seagulls form nursery flocks, where they not only play, but also learn important skills for adulthood. A few adult males watch over the nursery flock. These flocks of young birds stay together until they reach breeding age.

In terms of communication, gulls have a highly developed and complex repertoire of sounds and body movements to convey their message.

 

Nesting season

At this time of year, there are many baby seagulls about. The gulls are very protective of their chicks, so people should be aware if there's a seagull nest in the area, as the adult birds may exhibit protective behaviour.

This can involve swooping down and squawking when people walk nearby. Although this is just a warning, passers-by can mistake it for aggression and think they're going to be attacked.

Recent studies show that seagulls are moving further inland in their search for food, as over-fishing of our oceans has left shortages for gulls in some areas. The birds will go wherever people feed them, so if you leave food out, or don't dispose of food waste properly in a wheelie-bin, it will attract gulls.

 

Make eye contact!

Never fear if seagulls are flocking around your feet as you sit eating your lunch on a park bench. Although there have been media reports of gulls stealing sandwiches out of people's hands, the best way to deter them, according to research at Exeter University, is to stare down at them, making eye contact!

The simple deterrent was published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, along with the rest of the study's findings. The report concluded that seagulls took less time to approach someone who was eating when the person was facing the other way, compared with if they were staring directly at the bird.

While gulls are generally disliked in the UK, for no real reason, over in the United States, they are highly revered in some areas of Utah, after they helped the early Mormon settlers deal with a plague of crickets! The birds ate thousands of crickets that were eating and destroying the crops in 1848.

As a result, the seagull was made the state bird of Utah and there's a monument in Salt Lake City to commemorate what is now known as the "Miracle of the Gulls".

If you're trying to stop seagulls from landing on your property, there's a simple and humane way of deterring the birds, without causing them any harm.

Henry Cowls' knotted seagull netting and bespoke size knotted seagull netting provides a cost-effective, reliable solution. Our polyethylene seagull netting will retain its shape and strength for up to 20 years in all weathers.

Please give us a call on 01326 221514 for further details.

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