April Pest of the Month: Herring Gulls
Larus argentatus, also known as the herring gull, is a common sight on the south coast, especially in coastal towns. However, these birds are slowly increasing in number inland and are now nesting in towns, as well as being found on farmland, landfill sites, playing fields, and reservoirs. Despite their increasing numbers in urban areas, their numbers are declining along the seafront, leading to their placement on the conservation red list. This is due to a combination of factors, including wintering, depleted seas, and conscious recycling, which have resulted in dwindling food sources such as seeds, fruits, small mammals, insects, and fish.
As herring gulls are on the red list, they are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to injure or kill them or to damage and destroy their active nests. Natural England, the UK government’s advisor, issues licences to professional pest controllers, such as Urban Pest Control, to manage bird control in a local area. Despite being a protected bird, herring gulls are still considered pests due to the damage they can cause to properties and their nuisance to people. Urban Pest Control is happy to recommend solutions to deter Herring gulls from nesting and becoming a problem.
Interesting facts about herring gulls:
- Adult herring gulls have light grey backs with white spots on their black-tipped wings. They also have white underparts and pink legs with webbed feet. Their heavy, slightly hooked bills are marked with a red spot. In contrast, young herring gulls are mottled brown.
- Approximately 130,000 breeding pairs of herring gulls lay 2-3 pale green eggs that have an incubation period of 28-30 days. The young birds fledge at 40-45 days and become independent 10 days later. Herring gulls can live up to 30 years.
- These birds have a wingspan of 135-145cm.
- Although they prefer to drink fresh water, herring gulls have adapted to drinking sea water. They have special glands above their eyes that remove salt from their systems.
- Herring gulls use calls to signal boundaries.
- They drop shelled prey from a height to break the shell and have been observed using pieces of bread as bait to catch prey. Additionally, they stamp their feet to create vibrations on the soil, driving earthworms to the surface.
- Herring gulls fly at speeds up to 18.3mph.
How to recognise you have a herring gull issue:
- Noise – Herring gulls are often heard before they are seen, using their distinctive “laughing” call to communicate a food source to their mate. However, their calls can also become louder and higher-pitched to signal danger, which can be distressing as large flocks of boisterous gulls raising the alarm for food can be extremely deafening.
- Nests & Damage – Herring gulls use feathers and other materials for nesting, which can block drains and gutters. They have even been known to nest in chimneys, completely blocking them and causing toxic fumes to enter buildings. In the process of making their nests, herring gulls pick and scratch at stonework and roof materials. They typically nest in April and May and tend to use the same nesting spot for up to 20 years, which can result in the need for frequent roof repairs.
- Guano – Herring gull droppings can cause significant damage to signage and solar panels. The corrosive properties of the guano can affect the working capacity of the metal work, and it can also be unsightly. Additionally, herring gull guano is a health and safety concern as it can be a slip hazard, and there are many diseases that can be transmitted, such as E-coli, salmonella, and listeria.
- Attacks – Herring gulls can be very aggressive when they feel their young are in danger or when they perceive a threat to their food source. This can include attacking other birds and even humans.
How to prevent herring gulls:
Herring gulls have a habit of nesting in the same spot year after year, which can cause problems for homeowners and businesses. To prevent them from nesting on roofs, there are several bird-proofing solutions available. Urban Pest Control provides bird-proofing services with skilled technicians who work safely and competently within the “working from height” guidelines.
One solution is to use complex bird netting that blends in with the scenery, while another option is to use discreet anti-nesting seagull spikes that are perfect for ledges. Daddi long legs is an anti-perching spider that rotates around a central spindle and protects a circular area ranging from 1.25m to 2.5m in diameter. Bird Alert is a smart technology bird scarer that listens to the type of pest birds approaching and activates a unique bird distress call for that breed, making it particularly useful for commercial properties and farms.
Urban Pest Control also offers a bird of prey pest control programme, which involves several visits from our in-house falconer Ryan and his harris hawk to the affected site throughout the year. Ryan will put a plan in place regarding the number of flights required each week or month. This process of introducing birds of prey to an established roosting area can have an immediate and long-lasting effect, reducing the number of nesting debris and guano from the area. The birds of prey are not trained to kill the pest birds, but simply to discourage infestations by way of their presence.
For those jobs not in easy reach, Urban Pest Control’s technicians are IPAF trained operators and regularly carry out risk assessments of the area. All work carried out by Urban Pest Control is within the regulations set out by Natural England, which ensures that the company practices competently without causing harm to these feathered pests.
Professional Bird Control Services
Should you require any further information regarding our falconry services or any other of our bird proofing solutions for your business or organisation in Poole, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Dorchester, Weymouth and surrounding areas please do not hesitate to contact us.