The "Majestic Herring Gull" or "Rats With Wings"
The anti-social seagull is a staple story of local newspapers
all around the country, and that's because there is an urban gull colony in
just about every city and town throughout the country - or soon will be. Peter
Rock, an expert on the urban gull, estimated in 2003 that the urban gull population
was growing at about 13% per annum. Rock, an ornithologist, estimated that
in the region of the Severn Estuary there were around 6,000 wild gulls in two
breeding colonies and about 20,000 urban gulls scattered over about 60 urban
Favourite arguments of the gulls' defenders
are that they [the gulls] were here first and that we humans have taken
or destroyed their natural habitat. In fact, the urban gull is a relatively
new phenomenon. They have moved into towns and cities because rooftops provide
convenient cliff-like nest sites, AND because there is a ready food supply
in the food waste that humans disgard. The urban gull is the product of our
modern throw-away consumer culture. Gulls are natural scavengers and the pickings
in town are great!
According to Rock, what really gave momentum to the growth
of urban gull populations was a change in health and safety legislation.
In 1956 the Clean Air act made it illegal to burn rubbish at landfill
sites. Instead at the end of each day the fresh rubbish was covered with soil
or other inert material. Thus the law of unintended consequences resulted in
a huge increase in food supply for the scavenging gull populations of the country.
More food meant more gulls which eventually found their way on to the roofs
of our towns and cities in search of nesting sites.
Some places have good records of the growth of their urban
gull populations. For example, it is believed that the beginnings
of the population in Gloucester can be traced back to 1976 when 3 pairs of
lesser black-backed gulls were recorded nesting in the city. In 2005 the population
was recorded at 2,300 pairs of lesser black-backed and herring gulls.
What is the population of urban gulls in Brighton and Hove?
That's a good question, and I don't think there is an answer at present.
Close Up of Adult Herring Gull
The herring gull is one of the biggest of the
gull species. It is about the same size as the lesser black-backed
gull, but smaller than the great black-backed gull, Britain's largest
gull. It weighs about a kilogramme and has a wing span of 4 1/2 feet.
The adult herring gull has a yellow bill with a pinky-red spot on its
tip, as have a number of the gull species. It is believed that the pink
spot stimulates the newly hatched babies. They peck at the pink spot
and this in turn stimulates feeding by the adults. The adults have pink
Young Gull on Brighton Pier
The young herring gull has a mottled grey and
brown plumage and a dark bill. It takes two years to achieve the
white and grey plamage of the adult bird.
Adult Herring Gull
|The adult bird has a dazzling white plumage except for its wing which
are light grey with black tips.
Click the photo for a large version
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