Pest control - seagulls

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Roof nesting Herring gulls and Lesser Black Backed gulls are becoming a growing concern in many towns and cities throughout the UK. Food is readily available and there are no natural predators.


The problem

When gulls are fed regularly it creates an artificially high population and encourages further breeding pairs to take up residence in an area. You are strongly advised not to feed the seagulls as this will not only increase the population but will also cause unnecessary annoyance to neighbours.

The gulls

Seagull courtesy of Matt Banks/

Herring gulls like nesting on flat rooftops, chimneys and gullies in sloping roofs. Eggs are laid from early May onwards (usually two or three in each nest). The eggs take about three weeks to hatch, so the first chicks are generally seen at the beginning of June. Gulls see humans as a threat and will dive towards anyone who gets too close to their young. Normally they swoop close but do not hit you.

The law

All wild birds are protected by law (the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended). It is illegal, with certain exceptions for some species, to kill, injure or take a wild bird, or to destroy its nest (whilst in use or being built), eggs or chicks. Different exceptions apply to different species in specific circumstances if certain conditions are met. In some situations, provided there is a valid justification, an individual licence may be issued to permit an otherwise illegal action against a wild bird.
It is illegal to remove gull nests and eggs or to kill chicks and adult birds because they are disliked, considered noisy or thought to be causing damage to property.
The current and relevant general licence must be consulted before taking action to ensure that the action is legal.
Copeland or the RSPB cannot authorise individuals to kill gulls or destroy nests or eggs. All enquiries on legal, lethal control and licences should be addressed to Natural England, the statutory agency that advises on wildlife management issues. 
General licences permit `authorised persons’ to take legal, lethal action against some species in specific circumstances (for other species, an individual licence must be sought).
General licences are issued annually, and so the terms and conditions are subject to change. `Authorised persons’ are usually the landowner, occupier or someone authorised by them. While an individual acting under instructions from the local authority is an authorised person, this does not confer right of entry onto private property.
General licences currently include those that permit the destruction of the nests and eggs of herring gull and lesser black-backed gull (and the chicks and adults of lesser black-backed gull) to preserve public health or public safety. Only humane methods can be used. Poisoning is illegal.
It is essential for anyone intending to take action against gulls under the terms of a relevant general licence to be sure of the identification of the species involved, to understand the terms and conditions of the appropriate general licence and, crucially, to be sure that their actions comply with the law, including being satisfied that non-lethal methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impractical and that they are an `authorised person’.

The council

We have no legal duty or responsibility to tackle the problem of seagulls. We conduct an annual survey to monitor nests and identify any sources of food for them. We do not offer a pest treatment service.

The answer

The best course of action is deterrent. Secure your buildings to avoid seagulls taking residence in the first place. The gulls usually start to congregate during March/April time – this is the only time when they may be discouraged by means of disturbance. Once they have started to build nests it is almost impossible to move them on. The other course of action is to carry out bird proofing works to the building. We can provide advice on bird proofing or you can contact a specialist proofing contractors and these works can be very expensive. Details of companies who carry out this type of work can be found in the vermin control section of Yellow Pages and further information can be obtained via the internet.

To avoid attracting seagulls make sure you keep all food and refuse secure and do not put rubbish bags out for collection too soon before your collection is due. If you currently have a bagged rubbish collection but feel you could accommodate a wheeled bin, then please contact us to request a bin by calling 0845 054 8600.

You can download this information as a pdf by clicking on this icon PDF version at the top of the page.

Published: 23 August 2013 - 9:01am