Living with Urban Gulls

Aberdeen City Council receives almost 200 complaints and enquiries each year concerning gulls, most of these concern nuisance from aggressive behaviour, noise and damage to buildings. These occur mainly between April and September when the gulls arrive to nest and raise their chicks, although an increasing number are choosing to remain in Aberdeen all year round. 

The Council has no statutory powers or duty to deal with gulls, although Officers will investigate complaints and provide advice where possible. 

Many of the problems are caused by residents feeding the gulls with discarded food scraps, littering and improper waste disposal. Not only does this cause a nuisance, but human food is also bad for gulls. Their natural diet is based on shellfish, bird eggs, insects and earthworms. 

Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Under this, it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird, or interfere with its nest or eggs. 

Tackling the Nuisance 

It takes four years for a gull to reach maturity and breed with many returning to the nests where they were born. Gulls like to nest in colonies, and once a pair gains a foothold others will follow. If they breed successfully, they will return each year and problems will grow rapidly. 

There is no quick fix to the problem of nuisance gulls, and control measures need to be kept up for several years to be effective. The key to reducing gull numbers lies in reducing the ability to breed and limiting the supply of food. Gulls pair and mate for life, unless they fail to rear chicks in which case they will seek a new mate. 

Action needs to be considered early in the year as once the chicks have hatched it is too late to take action. 

For more tips on gull management, please visit the NatureScot website. 

For more information visit Frequently Asked Questions and How to prevent nesting

Things You Can Do 

  • Do not drop litter or food scraps. This is an offence, and you may be liable to a penalty. 
  • Avoid feeding gulls. This encourages them to congregate and cause annoyance to neighbours. 
  • Do not overfill bins or otherwise store unwanted food waste in open areas that are accessible to gulls. 
  • Feed small garden birds via bird feeders and other appropriate purpose-built devices. 

If you come across a young gull that is not injured or orphaned, stay well away. If approaching it is unavoidable, hold a stick or umbrella above your head to avoid the parents from 'dive-bombing'. 

If you see an injured bird, please contact the SSPCA on 03000 999 999. 

You can watch our short video on tips for living with urban gulls below. 

Problems associated with Gulls 

Gulls begin to mate in April and nest from early May onwards. Their mating calls and squabbling can start at sunrise and continue all day.

Birds can damage properties by disturbing roof tiles, blocking gutters, gas flues and chimneys, and by clogging drains and ventilation systems. Their nests can look unsightly and bird droppings can accelerate the deterioration of buildings and statues. 

Gulls and pigeons can carry a wide number of diseases, including salmonella and tuberculosis, which are potentially fatal to humans. The birds and their nests may also be home to a number of ticks, fleas and mites which can give rise to health problems. 

Aggression from gulls can happen at two stages: 

  • When parents defend the nests where the chick falls out and cannot return to safety. The parents will swoop and dive at anyone who approaches, which can be very frightening. 
  • When young gulls start to fly, aggression will increase as they begin to squabble over a shortage of food which can lead to attacks on people by swooping down and stealing food. 

People have been injured by the birds' sharp beaks and claws, and domestic pets can also be attacked. Gulls are clever and choose vulnerable targets, meaning that children and elderly people are often most at risk. 

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