Gulls’ nuisance behaviour is our fault

A lot of people are irritated by the behaviour of seagulls at the seaside. They are bold and they steal chips out of the hands of holidaymakers enjoying fish and chips out of newspaper. I’ve seen people hit seagulls with their fists in order to deter them from stealing their fish and chips. But seagulls should not be treated as pests as they so often are but treated as animals to be respected as they are simply using their intelligence to survive in the human world which has become very difficult for them.

Gull takes crisps and chips
Gull takes crisps and chips. Image: AI.

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Seagulls have had to modify their behaviour to survive which means coming into the urban environment as factors such as diminishing fish stocks have led to a declining population of wild gulls and greater difficulty in surviving in the usual way.

Paul Graham, Professor of neuroethology at the University of Sussex believes that we should regard gulls as clever birds and respect them a bit more and stop seeing them as pests. He told the BBC: “When we see behaviours we think of as mischievous and criminal – almost we are seeing a really clever bird implementing very intelligent behaviour. I think we need to learn how to live with them.”

He argues that human activities have forced seagulls species such as the herring gull out of their natural habitats which has left them with little choice but to divebomb tourists to steal their fish and chips.

Graham believes that the behaviour of gulls is a sign of their intelligence. He said that: “During their lifetime they learn which items that are discarded might be food and they’ve probably learned that by observing older birds. Over time they’ll build a repertoire of quite skilled behaviours which enables them to liberate food either from your bins or from humans directly.”

He argues people should take up simple solutions such as using larger secure bins and educating people to not leave leftover food in accessible places.

Essentially, he’s calling for humans to coexist with seagulls. They are going through a difficult time according to conservationists. There are 50 species in the world. Six of them live in Britain. They are protected under wildlife legislation and directives but their numbers are decreasing.

Black-headed goals, common gulls, Mediterranean gulls, lesser black-backed gulls and great-black backed gulls are declining in number.

The RSPB said that the pink-footed, curved-bill herring gull that we often see in rubbish tips is endangered as per the Red List.

The Scottish government through their agency, NatureScot is adjusting their licensing permitting the destruction of bird nests because of population concerns. They want to reduce approvals for controlling gulls in Scottish towns.

Another person defending the behaviour of gulls is Emma Caulfield who runs The Winter Gull Survey. She said that “they are very charismatic creatures and definitely get a bad rap for sometimes aggressive behaviour in the breeding season. But they are part of our natural world and just taking advantage of the hand they’ve been dealt.”

Information on winter gulls will be collected later in 2024 and people who can distinguish between the various species can volunteer to help. The information will be used to improve conservation.

RELATED: Grabbing human food makes seagulls more intelligent

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Post Category: Birds > seagulls