Getting along with Gulls
recent years gulls have become increasingly common
in urban environments. Residential and commercial
developments on shorelines and islands have driven
gulls away from some of their traditional nesting
sites and they have adapted to nesting on gravel
rooftops and vacant lots, especially near bodies
of water. Gulls have also learned to forage for
garbage at dumps and in urban areas. Most conflicts
with gulls can be abated or prevented with simple,
Conflicts usually arise
during nesting season from adult gulls swooping
down at people to protect their nests or chicks
and from gull droppings on cars, boats, piers, swimming
areas and around businesses.
Ring-billed gulls (one
of two common gull species we have in our area)
are highly colonial when they nest and a nesting
colony may number in the thousands of birds. Herring
gulls nest alone or in less densely-packed colonies
than Ring-billed gulls and often mix with Ring-billed
Conflicts with gulls
can often be prevented or solved by using the humane
techniques described in this article. As with all
nuisance wildlife situations, a combination of these
techniques is often needed to obtain the best results.
There are several ways
that habitat modification (changing the landscape)
can be used to reduce conflicts with gulls. Reducing
or eliminating artificial food sources such as human
food wastes at dumps and landfills and near restaurants
and food processing plants is effective. Also, manipulate
vegetation height by limiting mowing - dense vegetation
that is higher than the gulls when they are standing
reduces their ability to see approaching predators
and may make them abandon the area. Draining or
otherwise eliminating puddles and pools of standing
water that attract gulls is also a good strategy.
Business owners can
prevent gulls from nesting on rooftops and on undeveloped
properties by watching for gulls visiting their
properties starting in late February, March and
early April, depending on the weather. These birds
may be checking out the area to later establish
a nesting colony. Before the birds actually begin
nesting, it is legal and humane to chase the birds
away or make noise to frighten them away. However,
do not strike the birds with anything and of course,
do not physically harm them in any way. Trained
Border Collies can be used very effectively to chase
birds from areas where they are not wanted.
Discouraging the birds,
timed before they begin nesting, can get them to
look elsewhere to nest. After the birds have laid
eggs, it is against federal law to disturb the birds,
their nests or their eggs!
In some cases scare
devices, like the use of strips of shimmering Mylar
tape, can scare gulls, but such measures need to
be changed around periodically or else the birds
will get used to them. Decoys that look like dead
gulls can be placed in gull resting areas and especially
when coupled with scare tactics like noisemakers,
can get gulls to leave an area.
A grid of fishing line
or wire, mounted on poles spaced 10 to 15 feet apart
has been shown to effectively dissuade gulls from
nesting on rooftops or fields on which it is applied.
These grids must be erected before the start of
the gull mating season.
Grids of wire or fishing
line can be spaced as wide as 30 feet apart have
been shown to keep gulls away from garbage dumps,
if the food attraction is not too great. Wire spacing
of 15 feet was successful in keeping most gulls
away, even when the food attraction was great. Wire
grids with spacing of 30 feet have successfully
kept gulls away from fish-farming ponds.
Gulls can be dissuaded
from perching on ledges and walls by using "bird
spikes," sometimes called "porcupine wires."
These are strips of bristling metal or plastic wires
or spikes that can strongly discourage gulls from
landing on surfaces to which they are properly applied.
The Bird Spider does
look somewhat like a wire spider with long, curved
wire legs radiating from a central mounting point.
This product can keep gulls from perching on poles,
street lights, boat cabins and other areas up to
several square feet in size.
Please Do Not Feed the Gulls
Gull populations are
growing in urban areas, in part due to the garbage
and food scraps they find scavenging at dumps, landfills
and on city streets and parking lots. We can all
help out by disposing of food waste in covered cans