GULLS – IT’S OUR FAULT
Expert says people to blame for rising numbers in city
“WE invited them found their niche.”
These are the damning words of one of the UK’s leading ornithologists on Cardiff’s runaway seagull problem.
Many people in the city take it for granted their bin bags will be torn open once a week or that flocks of gulls will hang around school playgrounds waiting for the daily feast as children go back into school after break.
According to gull expert Peter Rock, Cardiff has the largest population in the Severn Estuary, with the latest data putting the count at 3,150 breeding pairs.
These figures comes from scientific surveys but people in the city are also seeing the increase in their day to day lives.
Mike Moreland lives in Whitchurch, close to the Gabalfa flyover.
He said: “I have seen a massive increase in the population over the last 10 years. Close to where I live, they nest on the roofs of the student residents building. The constant noise is terrible, especially during nesting season, it starts at about 3am and continues until midnight.
“Also, when the chicks have hatched they are very aggressive towards people and pets. I have seen a massive decrease of smaller birds to a point where I never see any in the garden now. I am very concerned about the health implications as they defecate everywhere.”
The vast majority of seagull gulls in the in and they have Welsh capital are one of two species – herring gulls (pink legs) and lesser black-back gulls (yellow legs).
They first started getting a foothold in Cardiff almost 40 years ago and made their mark straight away.
According to Mr Rock, this explosion in the population is unsurprising.
“Town offers a safe place,” he said. “There are few predators. It is 4-6°C warmer in the town than the countryside, which allows breeding earlier in the year. We have given them the invitation to breed in the town.”
It’s not just that the gulls are able to breed earlier in the town – they can also feed at night. Rural gulls will not fly in the dark but research suggests urban gulls are flying 35% of the time at night compared to 65% in the day. That ability to feed through the night is causing real issues on The Hayes in the city centre.
Huw Williams, 57, has an apartment there. He claims that during the summer the attractive open space is ruined at about 4am when the gulls tear apart the bags left out by restaurants.
“I have been here for four or five years,” he said. “It has been horrific! I have relentlessly spoken to Cardiff council about it. Why can’t they build a shelter for the bags? The can make it as pretty as they want.
“We had friends over from South Africa and they said, ‘What a lovely city totally blighted by rubbish and seagulls.’” So what can be done about them? Chris Corbett is a pest control expert who runs Aderyn pest control.
He said: “Netting to exclude the birds from a specific area is regarded as being the most effective. However, if it is the ridges or parapets of a building that is the issue then perhaps a sprungwire system would be better.
“Chimney stacks and pots can best be protected by using spikes, wire mesh cages or a combination. Bioacoustics (the birds’ natural alarm call played through a speaker system) work in low pressure areas where the requirement is to disrupt the birds’ behaviour but it has a measured success when the birds are nesting.”
A spokesman for Cardiff council said: “All seagulls are protected species in the UK through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and there isn’t any statutory duty on the council to manage their population.
“If home owners would like to take measures to stop nesting gulls on the roof of their house, then they are able to take action themselves or hire a pest control company to put measures in place. This usually involves putting spikes or a net over the chimney pots which can be put in place outside the breeding season between September and March.”