The two types of gulls most commonly nesting in Dumfries are the Herring Gull which accounts for 11% of the gull population in the town and the Lesser Black Backed Gull which accounts for 89%. However, several other species of gulls do also visit the town from time to time.
These are large birds standing about 55cm, bill to tail in height. They have silver gray wings, black wing tips and pink legs.
Lesser Black Backed Gull
These gulls are slightly smaller than the Herring Gull and have a dark gray /black back and wings, and yellow legs.
The main sources of food for the gulls in Dumfries are the River Nith, the Solway and surrounding agricultural land. However, gulls are opportunistic and will scavenge in the town, finding meals in waste bins and taking food when it is dropped on the ground.
A reduction in the food the gulls scavenge in and around the town, will discourage the birds from foraging in Dumfries.
Both species of gulls begin mating in April and start building nests in early May. Eggs are laid in clutches of two or three and are incubated for approximately 24 - 30 days. Once hatched, the chicks will leave the nest at around 42 days and become fully independent once they can fly, usually in July/August. They take 4 years to mature to adulthood.
Evidence built up over the last few years has shown that in Dumfries the main issues with gulls relate to:
Swooping, dive bombing and attacks are often associated with the hatching or presence of a chick in the nest and not just when chicks fall to the ground. It is the adults' natural way of defending their young.
Food stealing by gulls is on the increase and usually happens at lunchtime. Gulls have now developed an expectation of food when in the presence of humans. If they are not readily offered food, they try to intimidate people into giving them something to eat. They often hover in front of people in an effort to steal food.
Gulls are very intelligent and know where food outlets are located in the town and will target them etc. when looking for potential snacks. Please keep your food purchases out of sight.
Gulls do not worry who they target when it comes to stealing food and the end result can be quite frightening for the victim.
Mess on cars is common in and around the town, as is the noise which is generally a problem early in the morning.
The Council has no statutory duty to take action against gulls. There are, however, some powers available to the Council and others to take action.
The principal legislation dealing with the control of birds is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Generally, it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird or interfere with nests or eggs. The penalties for disregarding the law can be severe.
The law does, however, recognise that particular species of common bird, such as herring gulls and lesser black-blacked gulls, can cause nuisance and allows measures to be taken against such birds in limited circumstances.
Action can only be taken under the general licences made under the 1981 Act for the purpose of protecting public health or public safety, and preventing the spread of disease. An offence would be committed if the action could not be justified or defended for any of these purposes.
Only an owner or occupier can take action against gulls nesting on their buildings, or they can give someone else permission to act on their behalf.
Any action taken must be justified in terms of the law and can include:
Action taken must be humane. Any inhumane method which could cause suffering would be illegal. The use of poisons or drugs to take or kill any bird is specifically prohibited except under very special circumstances and with a government licence.
In practice there are very few humane methods to kill birds which are likely only to affect that particular species and skill and experience is needed to deploy them. The Council is particularly keen to discourage shooting of gulls.
All owners/occupiers of buildings which have, or may attract roof-nesting gulls can provide their building with suitable deterrent measures. This section describes some of the measures available.
It may be possible to reduce or break up the colonies of birds, if as many owners/occupiers as possible apply deterrent measures to their buildings.
The principal methods of deterrence are:
There are several spiking systems commercially available which incorporate a stainless steel spike fitted in a plastic base. The spikes and base come as an assembled unit in convenient lengths which can be cut to size.
These spike systems may be useful for protecting small dormer roofs and other similar locations. The usual fixing method is to use screws or, where these would damage the structure, proprietary adhesives.
Long spikes can be used to prevent gulls nesting on top of chimney-stacks between the pots and in the valley behind a chimney-stack where it meets the roof. It is important to fix sufficient numbers of spikes to ensure that the nesting area is well covered.
The basic methods of use are as follows:
The Council has NO STATUTORY DUTY to take action against gulls. There are, however, some powers available to the Council and others to take action.
In 2008 a task force was set up with the aim of exploring all options to tackle the problems associated with nesting gulls.
In 2009 a number of projects were set up namely:
In 2010 the scheme was opened up to all commercial and residential premises in Dumfries who had been affected by gulls in terms of public health and safety. Approximately 2950 eggs were removed from 1486 nests during May - July.
3468 eggs removed, 1678 nests, 1115 visits to 290 properties
3776 eggs removed , 1642 nests, 842 visits to 275 properties
3268 eggs removed, 1777 nests, 700 visits to 333 properties