‘Rats with wings’ is a popular term for seagulls, due to their spread in our towns and cities. But the truth is, it could be our fault. Increasing the size of our conurbations has effectively wiped out their natural habitats and provided a source of food – albeit not their optimal diet, pastry flakes and leftover chips are rife in what was once their home. Should we do something about it?
Firstly, as construction workers, it’s imperative to look for dwellings when surveying – birds will nest in dilapidated buildings, empty properties, skips, anywhere. It is important not to disturb their nests as birds often will abandon their young if they can sense a trespasser.
You might think that seagulls are multiplying – it feels like we’re sometimes tripping over them whilst out and about. However, UK herring gull (the real name for seagulls) populations are declining, with them featuring on the Red List of birds of conservation concern.
You might not be aware but there isn’t just one type of gull – there are a lot of different breeds living in the UK and Ireland.
Gulls are relatively large birds with sturdy legs, webbed feet and stout bills. The most common breeds are the black-headed gull, the herring gull, the lesser black-backed gull, the great black-backed gull, and the common gull (obviously). These inhabit both coastal towns and inland areas.
Less common, kittiwakes are smaller than the others with black-tipped wings, generally spending their summers on the north east coast and around Irish coastal areas; Mediterranean gulls have black faces (or hoods) and red-orange bills, and are mainly found on the south and south east coast.
So, what should you do when you’re surveying and find a nest? It is a criminal offence to purposely damage a nest and you could be fined or jailed under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
If you are unsure of what you should do, please call the RSPCA, SSPA (Scotland) or USPCA (NI) for tips and support on how you can work around the habitat without disruption.
Ultimately, take it as a compliment that birds have come to nest in your property, as they are very choosy in where they settle.