Gulls expert warns Dundee council fighting a losing battle against birds overpopulating

Kris Miller, Courier, 28/04/16. Picture today shows Desperate Dan statue in Dundee City Centre with a seagull on his head. The Princes Trust event is on tomorrow, not today.
Kris Miller, Courier, 28/04/16. Picture today shows Desperate Dan statue in Dundee City Centre with a seagull on his head. The Princes Trust event is on tomorrow, not today.

The UK’s leading authority on gulls has said Dundee City Council is fighting a “losing battle” in its efforts to stop the birds repopulating.

Peter Rock, who is about to embark on his 40th season of exploring the urban gull, gave the frank outlook as nesting season approaches.

Spring and summer in the city are often blighted by aggressive birds swooping down and attacking pedestrians, often in an attempt to steal food.

The city council has said pest control officers will continue to remove eggs throughout the nesting season, which runs from April to July.

A council spokeswoman claimed the removal of eggs “disrupted and reduced” the breeding pattern.

But Mr Rock claimed the “harsh reality” was even if the local authority was to remove 100 nests and eggs this coming season it would have little or no impact.

He said gulls – which have a 95% survival rate once they reached adulthood – can live up to 35 years of age.

They can go on to have breeding careers spanning anything from 10 to 20 years.

He said: “In order for this to be successful it would need to be persistent.

“Even if eggs were removed as a one-off the likelihood is they would just nest elsewhere.

“The council is essentially just throwing money down a hole trying to tackle this.

“They need to work out whether removing eggs is a worthwhile exercise or not.

“You need to establish what the baseline population is and to establish whether removing eggs is making any impact.”

Louise Pelly, 33, a resident at Fyffe Street, said the arrival of Eurobins on her street attracted a huge flock of gulls who seem to have settled there.

She said: “We’ve only got one Eurobin for 18 flats and it gets overfilled really quickly. The gulls then peck the bags open and throw the rubbish all over the street.

“When the binmen empty the bins they don’t take away the strewn rubbish, so the gulls don’t go anywhere.

“It makes the area look really rundown and it’s surely an environmental issue too.

“There are lots of young kids about here.”

Mr Rock said a number of gulls enjoyed feasting outwith city centre populations.

Even if the recycling policies were changed locally, he explained that the urban gull would only feast on neighbouring farmland or suburban Dundee.

He added: “You’d be surprised how many suburban houses feed gulls.

“The harsh reality is that the gulls are incredibly resilient and adaptable.”

Attitudes to the city’s gull population were mixed when the Tele went to speak to the public.

Craig Alexander, from City Quay, said: “I think it’s an issue for the city. They are massive, aggressive and vicious.”

Bruce Mackie, of Fintry, said: “I don’t mind the birds. They remind me of the sea so I don’t have a problem with them.

“I guess they can be an issue with them attacking people for their food, but personally I don’t have a problem with them.”

Glenda Willar, from Perth, said: “They are very annoying They’ll probably become a bigger issue for the city when they are nesting.

“I don’t really know what we can do – maybe just keep the street clean and get rid of all the rubbish, because it’s food they are after.”

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