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Wildlife - The Urban Seagull: loved and loathed

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Seagull Saga Special

Standing Herring Gull
Bird Sections Below

In this city the word 'seagull' has two meanings. When spelt with a small 's', the word has the usual meaning - a general word for a number of bird species. When spelt with a capital 'S', Seagulls is the nickname of the local football team, Brighton & Hove Albion - a team which is forever climbing up and falling back down through the football leagues. This section is about the feathered sort of seagull.

Judging by the frequent reports and letters in the local paper, the Argus, the city divides into two hostile camps when it comes to seagulls. Residents either love them or loathe them. During the breeding season, roughly from March to the end of July, the aggressively protective parent birds manage to upset a good many people. Every outrage that makes its into the pages of the Argus provokes a wave of letters to the paper from both the gulls' critics and their defenders.

Here are some of the incidents that have been reported over the last five or six years and which happened either in the city or along the Sussex coast:

  1. Gulls swooping on customers at the café in Queenspark, and stealing their sandwiches. The gulls were especially fond of the café's tuna sandwiches! One woman's hand was cut by a pillaging gull.

  2. A primary school in the city was closed for the day because staff had come under concerted attack from gulls which had nested on the school's roof. The chicks had hatched and the parent birds had become very aggressive, diving at staff in the playground. The headteacher feared that the children might also come under attack. So the school was closed for a day while the council had the nests removed, and netting erected to deter future nesting. It was reported that the three gull chicks removed from the school would be hand reared before being released back to the wild - or at least the city streets!

  3. A woman reported that seagulls were repeatedly pecking on her bedroom window.

  4. A man reported that a seagull had swooped and attacked him, cutting his head.

  5. A seagull landed on a youth's head and stole his burger out of his hand.

  6. A tennis club hired a falcon to try to frighten off gulls which were damaging the Astro Turf on their courts. The birds seemed to regard the turf as good nest-building material.

  7. A pensioner was sunbathing in his back garden. He had taken his false teeth out and put them on his garden table. A seagull swooped and made off with the teeth!

  8. One of the main nuisances that gulls are guilty of, along with foxes and cats, is breaking open and scavenging through the black plastic rubbish bags that are commonly used. It is frequently proposed that residents should have either dustbins or wheelie bins to stop this problem. Yet one woman reported that she had to weight her dustbin lid down with bricks because the gulls had learned to take off the lids. Another man reported seeing a gull almost opening a hinged wheelie bin. He thought they would eventually have to be locked to successfully deter the gulls.

  9. This story was told by one of the MCs at the 2006 London to Brighton Bike Run in Madeira Drive. He said a friend, who lives in an attic flat in Kemp Town, was woken by the sound of what turned out to be a seagull banging a flatfish on his Velux window! The fish appeared to be still alive, and the bird was banging it on the window to finish it off.

  10. Back in 2001 an elderly pensioner in Seaford was too frightened to return to her bungalow after she was attacked and injured by a seagull. The cut on her head required stitches.

 

Greetings from Brighton
Almost Mature Herring Gull & Brighton Pier
The seagull has become closely identified with Brighton, partly because their number are growing and partly because the local football team, Brighton & Hove Albion, are known as the Seagulls.

 

Young Gulls in Flight
Young Herring Gulls in Flight
 
Young Herring Gull
Young Herring Gull but Fully Grown!

Once the bird "locks" in on a morsel of food it shows a grim determination to get it. At any rate the gulls in the vicinity of the city's the two piers are very used to people and quite fearless.

 

 

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