Known to most people simply as ‘seagulls’, there are currently six species of breeding gulls in the UK. True to their name, most gulls can be found in the skies above our seaside towns, but many have made urban environments their home. But where do they go during the colder months?
Some species of gulls head for the warmer climes of continental Europe and Africa in the winter. However, many pest gulls have adapted to urban living, finding the warmth, food and shelter they need during the colder months. Others fly inland from the coast finding refuge in farm fields and rubbish dumps.
Love or loathe these ubiquitous seabirds, gulls are a year-round fixture in the UK.
At Malum we have a great deal of knowledge about these interesting, yet sometimes problematic, birds. We provide pest bird control across Hampshire and Dorset using tried and trusted methods. For a free no obligation quote on seagull deterrents, please get in touch.
Do seagulls go away in winter?
There are 50 gull species around the world, six of which are common in the UK. Let’s take a look at three of the most recognisable gull species: the herring gull, the lesser black-backed gull and the black-headed gull.
1. Herring Gull
Herring gulls are the most common and perhaps the most recognisable gull, with their white and grey plumage, pink legs and a distinguishing red dot on their yellow beaks. They are large and loud, with a familiar piercing cry.
Anyone who lives on the coast can tell you that herring gulls are not fussy eaters. They are omnivores, finding food by scavenging or hunting prey. Many an unsuspecting tourist has lost their fish and chips to a hungry herring gull, giving them a reputation as aggressive pests (the seagulls that is, not the tourists!).
According to the Seabird 2000 census, around 14% of the UK herring gull population choose to nest on rooftops rather than natural habitats. This is no doubt due to the abundance of food and shelter that can be found in urban areas, such as Southampton, Christchurch and Portsmouth, where Malum help many customers to deter seagulls from their homes and businesses.
Few herring gulls migrate from the UK during the winter, most making a short journey inland. Some even choose to brave it out at their seaside residence in warmer southern climes. They are a common sight on fields, moorland, landfill sites, lakes and reservoirs in the colder months.
2. Lesser black-backed gull
The lesser black-backed gull is nearly indistinguishable from its cousin the herring gull. To the untrained eye, the only real differences are that it’s slightly smaller and has yellow feet.
The lesser black-backed gull will travel further afield to find food sources and has become more common in urban areas. Their natural habitat is by the coast, on islands or in wetlands. The entire population exists in Europe and 40% of those can be found in the UK – one-third of which is in Cumbria.
In days gone by, lesser-black backed gulls were only spotted during the summer months in England, but now they are an all-year-round resident. Some choose to migrate to Africa, however to enjoy some winter sun.
3. Black-headed gulls
Black-headed gulls in fact appear white in winter and have a dark head (more brown than black) in summer. They are medium-sized with red bills and greenish legs.
Black headed gulls are the most common gull to be found inland. They like to gather in large flocks of up to 10,000 birds and are extremely noisy (in fact their Latin name translates as ‘laughing gull’). There are huge colonies of black-headed gulls all over the south and east coast of England. They commonly nest on open ground, but also on clifftops and buildings.
Black headed gulls are mostly migratory, but UK resident birds tend to stay all year round. They are joined in colder months by birds from Scandinavia, Iceland and Northern Europe, so can appear larger in numbers.
Will urban gulls migrate or stay in cities?
Urban gulls enjoy a good life in our towns and cities. There is an abundance of nesting places, food waste liberally spilling out of dustbins, few predators and the climate is usually warmer. While some may choose to head to Europe and Africa, most will stay put all year round.
How can I deter urban seagulls?
You’ve got to admire the adaptability and resourcefulness of urban gulls. But as fascinating as they are, they can make life difficult for residents and business owners.
Seagulls live in large flocks, so when they nest in buildings they can cause a lot of structural damage. Their detritus and waste is unsanitary and unsightly and can represent a health and safety hazard. Not to mention the threat they pose if they swoop on innocent passers-by, seemingly in defence of their eggs and nests.
At Malum, we have several tried and tested methods of pest bird control, deterring seagulls and other pest birds from settling in urban areas.
An age-old method involving the use of trained falcons to patrol an area to deter seagulls from nesting.
Bird netting and spikes
Netting and spikes are used on rooftops, gutters and balconies to create a barrier and prevent birds from roosting.
Egg and nest removal
Gulls are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to harm them or disturb their nests. However, when the risk is deemed high, nest removal is possible but only by a licenced pest controller, such as Malum.
A relatively new method, optical gel acts as an effective deterrent to birds without causing them harm. Gulls can see ultraviolet light and the gel appears as fire to them.
Visual and acoustic scarers
These are usually best combined with another method such as falconry, as gulls will soon become wise to them.
At Malum, we tend to recommend an integrated approach to deter seagulls, with several methods combined offering the most long-term solution. Take a look at our seagull control methods in more detail here.
Contact Malum today
If seagulls are causing an issue at your home or commercial premises, then Malum can help. We provide highly effective pest bird control in Dorset and Hampshire. We have many years of experience in dealing with all kinds of pest infestations as well as pest birds.
Our aim is to provide integrated, effective, safe, and cost-efficient pest control solutions. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation quotation.
Where do seagulls nest?
There are a few factors that influence a gull’s nesting behaviour. Their main criteria is safety, warmth and a nearby food source. Some gulls will return to the same nests year after year.
Herring gulls prefer coastal and clifftop locations in which to nest, but will head inland if they fear predators are in the area. Black headed gulls can mostly be found inland, on open ground or in wetlands.
Why are gulls nesting in urban areas?
More and more birds are making permanent homes in towns and cities, where there are fewer predators, an abundance of food and plenty of tall buildings to nest in.
Where do seagulls sleep in the UK?
Seagulls sleep in large numbers, usually on open ground where they can keep a beady eye out for foxes, hawks, falcons and other predators. You will often see seagulls sleeping on one leg to conserve their body heat.
When is seagull breeding season in the UK?
There are six species of breeding gulls in the UK. Courtship starts in the spring, with nests being constructed in May. Eggs are laid shortly after and most baby seagulls hatch in the summer months.
What should you do if you find baby gulls?
If you find a seemingly abandoned baby gull, it is best left alone. Its parents are likely close by keeping watch and they can become very agitated and swoop. If you spot an injured bird that you think has been abandoned, it is best to report it to the RSPCA or take it to a local vet.
Are seagulls dangerous?
Gulls, like pigeons, carry dangerous pathogens and diseases which can be passed on in their droppings. So they can represent a health risk in large numbers, especially to the most vulnerable of our society.
Seagulls have a well-earned reputation for being aggressive and menacing in their pursuit of food. They will also swoop if they think their nests, eggs or babies are being threatened.
If your home or business is under siege from seagulls, then please contact Malum for more information on pest bird control and deterrent.