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Living with urban gulls

The gull problem

A growing number of gulls are building nests on roofs across North Ayrshire. Roofs are warm, chimneys provide shelter, and streetlights allow feeding at night.

In towns, gulls feed on food that has been dropped or thrown away. Some people feed gulls on purpose. 

Gulls bring problems, like:

  • noise
  • mess from droppings, and scavenging in bins
  • damage to property and vehicles
  • attacks on people and pets

Problems are more serious in the breeding season. Chicks appear in early June. Parent birds can be aggressive defending chicks. 

Aggression and noise nuisance increases in July and August as young gulls begin to fly and squabble over food. 

By early September, young birds head out to sea. Most of the parents leave too, returning the following year.

Many gulls return to nest where they were born, adding to the problem.

Tackling the nuisance

Control measures need to be kept up for several years to be effective. Action needs to be planned early in the year. Once chicks have hatched it’s too late to do much to reduce numbers. The key lies in:

  • reducing their ability to breed successfully
  • limiting food supply 

The Law

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to capture, injure or destroy any wild bird, or interfere with its nest or eggs. Penalties can be severe.

The law provides a general licence system, which allows property owners to take action against gulls nesting on buildings by destroying nests or eggs.

This can only be used for the purpose of preserving public health, public safety, and preventing the spread of disease and is specifically for the control of Herring, Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed gulls.

If action is taken for any other reason, or if other species of gull are targeted, then an offence is committed.  

Only an owner or occupier can take action against gulls nesting on buildings, but they can give someone else permission to act on their behalf.

Any action taken must be humane and should only be used where scaring or proofing is neither effective, or practicable. Methods that could cause suffering is illegal. The use of poisons, or drugs, to take, or kill, any bird is specifically prohibited, except under very special circumstances and with a government licence, received in advance.

Although herring gulls can be killed under the general licence, this can only be done to:

  • protect public health
  • prevent serious damage to agriculture
  • conserve wild birds

North Ayrshire Council's policy is not to kill, or harm, live gulls or chicks.

The council has no statutory duty to take action against gulls, but recognises the need to protect communities. The council can't do this alone - everyone can help stop problems.

How to help

Do not feed gulls or drop food scraps. Feeding gulls encourages them to stay. Put litter and waste in secure, enclosed containers or bins. Remember, dropping litter or food scraps is an offence and you may be liable to a penalty.

Be a good neighbour, and don’t attract gulls to your garden to feed. If you feed them regularly, they'll expect everyone to do the same. This could lead to them attacking people to steal food. This can be frightening and could result in injury.

Human food is bad for gulls. A gull's natural diet is based on shellfish, small sea creatures, bird eggs, insects and earthworms.

In spring, owners or occupiers should check the roofs regularly for signs of nest building. Tenants should report nests to their landlord as soon as they are seen. If possible, the property owner should arrange to have the nest or eggs removed, using a licensed contractor.

Discourage nesting by erecting deterrent devices on:

  • chimney heads
  • flat roof areas
  • other possible nesting sites. 

If all owners of buildings which have (or may attract) roof nesting gulls, took appropriate measures, it would be easier to reduce gull colonies. Deterrents include:

  • fitting long spikes to places like chimney stack
  • fitting short spikes to dormer roofs
  • fitting wires, or nets, to prevent gulls landing
  • disturbance of nesting sites, including removal of nests and eggs

If you have a problem with gulls nesting on your property, contact a specialist company for advice or a quote. Due to trapping risk, nets should only be used after taking advice from a competent specialist.

If gulls nest on your property, you can arrange, through a competent specialist working under the appropriate licence, for eggs to be pierced, or oiled, to prevent hatching, or have them removed and replaced with imitation eggs.

Please note: Work on roofs should only be carried out by a competent person aware of safety requirements. All roof fixtures should be suitable for the specific roof and not constitute a safety or fire risk.

Contact Environmental Health




01294 324339


North Ayrshire Council, Housing & Public Protection, Environmental Health, Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE