Aberdeenshire Council this week agreed an immediate action plan to tackle the problem of urban gulls in the area.
The move follows ongoing complaints about gulls in coastal and inland communities, including noise, aggressive behavior, soiling and gull feeding.
Currently the council is undertaking a range of measures including the use of birds of prey, treatment of buildings to prevent nesting and landing, an egg and nest removal program and increased collection of rubbish and rubbish.
But under new proposals agreed by members of its Infrastructure Services Committee, a five-year action plan will be implemented, backed by a budget of £250,000.
During the discussion, the committee learned that a review undertaken by a regional group of urban gull stakeholders had established that there was no quick fix to mitigate the impact of gulls on communities in Aberdeenshire, but rather a longer-term strategic approach was needed to ensure any significant lasting impact. .
The committee was also told that for such a strategy to be successful, a joint approach between council officers and local communities is needed.
The key elements of the action plan are:
• Profiling of areas significantly affected by gulls to identify and mitigate issues such as food sources, nesting sites, waste storage, litter and litter provision that encourage gulls in these areas
• Acceleration of the deployment of anti-seagull bins
• Engage with local businesses to encourage good waste storage and prevent gulls from accessing food
• Provision of financial support to local communities to encourage and support local strategies such as egg and nest removal, use of birds of prey
• Provide information and advice to local communities on how to manage/minimize the impact of gulls
In the UK, gull populations are generally in decline, with some species such as herring gulls being considered threatened.
In the northeast however, a number of species are doing particularly well in many cities and towns.
One of the reasons for this is that the council believes people are still providing them with food.
This allows them to thrive in an artificial environment with an artificial food supply that is not healthy for the birds or our communities and encourages closer interaction between gulls and humans.
However, council protection services currently have no statutory powers to take action against gulls and can only give advice to members of the public on how they can help solve the problem.
Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which means it is illegal to capture, harm or destroy any wild bird, or interfere with its nest or eggs, unless unless you have a permit.
The most common complaints with gulls relate to the sound of the gulls’ calls and the messiness of their droppings.
But they also pose more serious problems – they often dive and swoop down on people, which can cause injury, and they can also cause significant property damage when nesting.
Welcoming the new scheme of measures, Councilor Peter Argyle, chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “The issue of urban gulls is extremely complex and after looking at best practice across the UK and consulted with experts including the University of Aberdeen, British Trust for Ornithology, RSPB and Nature Scotland there is no simple solution.
“However, we continue to listen to our communities and are committed to working with them to try to mitigate the impacts of the gulls.
“The introduction of the five-year action plan and the commitment of resources to execute the plan is a key step in alleviating the concerns of our communities.
Vice President John Cox added: “The development of these strategies and pilot projects will rely on our communities and businesses working together to help us identify key issues so that we can develop effective and achievable programs to address the gull problem.
“In the meantime, we must all do everything in our power to persuade the gulls that their natural environment is preferable to our town centres, which means not feeding the gulls, taking measures to protect the gulls and being careful how trash and food waste is disposed of. .”
The advice is simple:
• Do not feed gulls in streets, gardens or parks and do not drop leftover food – gulls are scavengers and discarded food encourages gulls to stay close to the food source
• Dispose of food waste responsibly – ensure waste and other food waste is properly stored or disposed of using the bins provided
• Whenever possible, put your household waste bins – especially food waste – for collection on the day of collection and not the day before
• Homeowners can deter gulls from nesting by installing deterrents on chimney tops and flat roofs such as spikes and netting
• You can have a licensed pest control company oil or pierce the eggs to prevent hatching or have the nest and eggs removed.
• Businesses that have netting on their roofs to discourage birds should be aware that the netting should be checked daily for any holes or entangled birds. They should have a way to release the birds, without calling the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.