Although more gulls are nesting on the roofs of seaside towns, overall the UK gull population has been going down. Like all other wild birds, gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it an offence to intentionally injure or kill any gull, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.
However, licences issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) allow control measures to be taken where there are public health or public safety concerns. The law does not permit control measures for gulls if they are causing noise nuisance or simply damaging property. When gulls are fed regularly it creates an artificially high population and encourages further breeding pairs to take up residence in the area.
You are strongly advised not to feed the seagulls as this will not only increase the seagull population but will also cause unnecessary annoyance to neighbours. From May 2017 we are able to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone deliberately feeding gulls on the beaches and esplanades. For further information please see our pages on public spaces protection orders. Fixed penalty notices for littering or waste management offences may be issued in other areas of East Devon. People who cause nuisance by persistently feeding gulls at home could face a Community Protection Notice which again may attract a fixed penalty if not complied with.
Current Control Measures
- All new litter bins in seaside towns have flaps across the apertures to prevent scavenging by gulls
- Posters requesting people not to feed the seagulls are displayed in seaside towns and have been distributed to local food businesses
- Advice is given to property owners on methods of protecting their own buildings and encouraging them to carry out egg replacement if possible.
- East Devons’ seaside towns have their refuse collected earlier during the summer which successfully reduces littering caused by seagulls
Herring gulls especially like nesting on flat rooftops, chimneys and gullies in sloping roofs. Eggs are laid from May (usually two or three in each nest). The eggs take about three weeks to hatch. The first chicks are seen in June. It is quite common for young gulls to fall down chimneys, or off roofs, into gardens or onto the road. Gulls see humans as a threat and will dive towards humans who go near their young. Normally they swoop close but do not hit you.
Please see our frequently asked questions section.