Seagulls – advice and information

The two types of seagulls breeding within the borough are herring gulls and kittiwakes.

Below is some information and practical advice on how best to tackle the challenges that arise due to these birds, within the laws that are designed to protect them. By playing your part, you can help us to curb the problems associated with them.

During the summer season, herring gulls are feeding and protecting their young, and may aggressively seek out food by any means possible. Unfortunately, by feeding the birds, leaving rubbish bags out for collection unsecured and dropping litter in the street, humans have made it easy for them and this is one of the main reasons we are experiencing the problems, particularly in the spring and summer seasons.

Remember:

  • Never feed the gulls
  • Never drop litter – dispose of it in a public bin or take it home with you
  • Don't put refuse sacks out too early
  • Do cover refuse sacks to prevent attack or purchase a seagull proof outer sack
  • Don’t overfill your bin so the lid cannot be closed

The challenges

Common issues include:

  • Noise caused by gulls calling and more annoyingly the distress call when warning other gulls of a perceived danger.
  • Mess caused by their droppings which foul pathways, gardens, people, cars and washing.
  • Damage to property caused by debris from nests and occasional dead chicks blocking gutters and downpipes.
  • Diving and swooping on people and pets, usually when chicks have fallen from the nest onto the ground. The adult birds use this technique in an attempt to drive off potential threats sometimes coming into contact and causing injury.
  • Serious issues occur when the nesting materials and other debris block gas flues; this can have severe consequences if gas fumes are prevented from venting properly.

How to report attacks by seagulls

With incidents of herring gulls swooping down on people as they eat, and media reports of attacks on individuals and domestic animals, we're asking you to reports any gull attacks by contacting us on 01723 232323 or by completing our seagull mugging and nuisance report form.  

Seagull nuisance form >

Reusable seagull proof sacks

If you are on a sack collection, you can purchase a seagull proof outer sack to put your sacks in, which will help to protect them from attacks by gulls and other pests. They cost £10 each (including delivery charge) and can be ordered by calling 01723 232323.

The law

Most gulls and their chicks are protected by law from any interference or action to control them. However, it should be noted that property owners can remove herring gull nests and eggs without the need to obtain a special licence. In such cases you will have to follow the conditions of a general licence. In relation to kittiwakes, only in exceptional circumstances and after applying and obtaining special licences issued by Natural England, can nests and eggs be removed from affected buildings by authorised pest controllers.  For up to date legislation and advice please refer to the following;

  • DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs): 08459 33 55 77
  • Natural England: 08456 00 30 78 
  • Further advice can also be found on the RSPB website.

What action can you take?

There are a variety of ways to control herring gulls and kittiwakes; some are more effective than others and the costs vary. It is illegal to destroy herring gulls and kittiwakes (including their chicks) as a method of control. Experience indicates that the best way to deter these seagulls from nesting on your property is to take the following steps:

1. De-nesting

At the end of every nesting season (usually September) remove all nests and nesting material from your building.

2. Proofing buildings

Just removing nests will not solve the problem on its own. The birds will build another nest the following spring. Herring gulls and kittiwakes must be discouraged from coming back. We recommend the proofing of affected buildings. This can be done by fitting fine netting with a maximum mesh size of 25mm, which should be kept taut on four sides to prevent birds’ wings becoming caught in the mesh. It is important to make sure that all possible nesting and roosting sites on the roof, especially behind chimney stacks, and building /window ledges are protected. It is also important to maintain the netting to prevent it from tearing or sagging, otherwise seagulls may become injured or die caused by entanglement and/or starvation as they are trapped and unable to feed. Furthermore, use of humane and safe chemical deterrents, such as “fire gel”, applied on likely nesting surfaces, is also recommended. However, these need to be regularly renewed to be effective.

3. Who should do the work?

You can do it yourself or engage someone else to do it for you. There are a number of pest control companies available to carry out proofing. You can find them on the internet, in the local papers, Yellow Pages or Thomson Local. A licensed contractor to remove a nest can also be found this way.

 4. When should it be done?

The best time to de-nest and proof buildings is at the end of the nesting season, usually around September time. If you engage a company to do the job they will advise you further on your particular situation. Proofing of buildings should be carried out outside the nesting season of seagulls – September to mid-February.

5. Who pays?

The responsibility for resolving any problem is yours if you are the owner or occupier of an affected building. Therefore, the cost of any works to resolve the problem will have to be met by the owner or occupier.

Planning – extensions and new buildings

If you are looking to apply for planning permission for either a new building, or to alter or extend an existing one, our planning team may be able to provide you with advice on measures to reduce or avoid the likelihood of gulls becoming an issue for you through the pre-application advice process, for which charges apply. Pre-application advice can be found at www.scarborough.gov.uk/planning

Be careful, it is illegal to interfere with the nests of most other types of sea birds as they are protected by law.

The work you do will be most effective if you take advice from professional persons or companies – DEFRA, Natural England or most pest control companies.

More importantly, the steps you take may be more effective if you join forces with your neighbours and it may keep the cost down. Don’t forget herring gulls are not only attracted by good nesting sites, they need food also!

Herring gulls

Herring gulls give people most cause for concern and can be a real issue to occupiers of buildings for a variety of reasons. The herring gull is a large bird measuring 55 cm (22”) from beak to tail and can be  found throughout the year around our coastal towns and inland around rubbish tips, fields, large reservoirs and lakes, especially during winter. Herring gulls nest on roof tops and like to feed on human food and rubbish. Adults have light grey backs, white under parts, and black wing tips with white 'mirrors'. Their legs are pink, with webbed feet and they have heavy, slightly hooked bills marked with a red spot. Young birds are mottled brown.

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes are gentle looking, medium-sized gulls with a small yellow bill and a dark eye. They have a grey back and a white underneath. Its legs are short and black. In flight the black wing-tips show no white, unlike other gulls, and look as if they have been 'dipped in ink'. Kittiwakes nest on window and building ledges, but only in certain places in Scarborough. They are only present in Scarborough from March to August, during the nesting season. They are not interested in human food and rubbish, but feed out at sea.