Here is some information about the harm that can be done to both people and gulls by feeding them inappropriately. Please remember though – while some species of gull are prevalent, others are in decline and are more highly protected. It is illegal to harm any wild bird, damage their nests or destroy their eggs. We live by the sea so must expect there to be seagulls, but stopping feeding them will encourage them to remain in their natural habitat and have a natural diet which will make life more pleasant for both people and gulls.
1. RATS. Feeding gulls can lead to an increase in the number of rats. In 2017, Swansea was ranked the 6th most rat infested area in Britain (with 3,121 call-outs, 13.06 per 1,000 people) and pest control company (Pest Professionals) warns “…we see rat populations explode near to where people leave out a lot of bird food, especially if it’s on the ground”;
2. HEALTH. Gulls are "the new public health risk" (as reported by the BBC in 2004). The rise in the urban
gull population is increasing the risks of e-coli, salmonella and botulism. And gulls could soon be more of a pest in urban Britain than rats – a warning given at the first (2003) National Conference on the problems caused by urban gulls;
3. NUMBERS. Gulls can live for 40 years, can breed for 25 years and they and their offspring will return to the same nesting site. In South Wales, the urban gull population is increasing at a staggering 16% annually and is set to increase four-fold over the next decade. Peter Rock (an avian expert involved in international gull research since 1980 and the author of several scientific papers on the subject) warns that once a pair gains a foothold, problems will spiral. There is already a growing gull colony in Mayals – please don’t be mistaken to think that you won’t be affected if you are not already;
4. NOISE. Noise is by far the greatest nuisance factor cited by Peter Rock. He advises that gulls’ screeching typically begins at 4 o’clock in the morning and is impossible to sleep through. When regularly fed they also become tamed and will start to repeatedly call for food during the day too. Many Mayals residents experienced both last year;
5. MESS. Mess is the second most unpleasant nuisance cited by Peter Rock. In a 2011 Commons debate, it was recognised that gulls have the ability to expel significant quantities of runny faeces on the wing, which makes it difficult for residents to enjoy their gardens; and their washing, windows, cars and garden furniture is continually fouled;
6. DAMAGE. Damage to property is the third biggest problem cited by Peter Rock. He advises that gulls will destroy insulation, air conditioning, will pull up exposed roofing felt and will even pull away lead flashing. Other damage includes blockages to rain water gutters, down pipes and even gas flues;
7. PROPERTY PRICE. Gulls nesting near or on your property will undoubtedly affect the value and/or saleability of your home and the cost to gull-proof your property can be significant;
8. ATTACKS. To date there have already been two reported deaths in the UK. The Guardian reported in 2013 that “pensioners have been hospitalised, knocked to the ground, breaking bones. Small dogs have bled to death, children’s lips been sliced open, and an elderly man died of a heart attack following a particularly vicious assault in his back garden.” Urban gulls also attack and will feed on garden birds; so when gulls move in, small garden birds are driven out;
9. FINES. If someone refuses to stop feeding the gulls to the detriment of the quality of life of other residents, then Local Authorities have the power to issue a Community Protection Notice and fine a person if they breach that Notice – Conwy Council exercised this power in 2015; and
10. HARM TO GULLS. Both the RSPB and RSPCA warn that feeding gulls will not only lead to attacks but feeding them birds an un-natural, high calorific, low nutritional diet is detrimental to their health as it can lead to long-term health problems and incurable syndromes such as “Angel Wing”.
Peter Rock advises that the only way to control the number of gulls is to control their food source. So for the sake of the safety, health and well-being of our community, we must not encourage them by feeding them and please make your local Councillors or Ward Councillor aware of any cases.