Saturday, 25 August 2012

Gulls, Why You Shouldn’t Feed Them.

The debate on gulls continues to roll on and on, so perhaps I can shed some new light on the gull question based on several years personal experience - dealing with gulls in some form or another. First of all we have to realise that Gulls have been around long before us, they are intelligent fast learners, and they live a long time.

They are primarily Predators but are so adaptable that they can forage anytime anywhere and are learning new skills all the time. Watching gulls drumming the ground to bring worms to the surface is now quite common whereas some years ago this would have been a rare event. Something that struck me some time ago was their instant attraction to anything white, and I wondered why the attraction was so strong. All gulls are predominantly white themselves, presumably it's easier to see each other at great distances over the sea perhaps. When some find a shoal of fish for instance others can see them and quickly join the feast. Their attraction to white is even more marked in Town where they are continually faced with white carrier bags, white polystyrene fast food containers, and white fish and chip papers. Then there is the human bounty of white bread providers, quite simply white means food ! 

Having cared for quite a few young injured gulls over the years, and observed adults and their offspring at length, I copied the adults feeding routine on the young injured gulls before releasing them back to the wild. The adults deliberately reduce the amount of food they give their young in order to wean them and make them self sufficient predators. We have all seen the young gulls walking behind the parents, head bowed and peeping constantly for food. The parents have a crop full of food but they refuse to give in, except when needed to keep their offspring alive. This strategy is for the good of the offspring and their future survival, and forces them to the seashore to join flocks that will hunt and scavenge shellfish, molluscs, eels, etc.

Misguided townies who think the birds are starving because they are always on the scrounge are doing the seagulls no favours by throwing them food. They are in effect creating townie seagulls who are unlikely to head to the seashore when they are being fed by benefactors. These gulls then become the long lived pests that will resort to snatching sandwiches or chips from children or adults, and end up being the scourge that empty litter bins and dive bomb you, making the newspaper headlines.
I have made quite a few enemies over the years, by trying to educate people into what not to do regarding feeding the gulls on the riverside. They are creating gull colonies that would normally be fishing the seashore, they put the lives of young ducklings at risk, because a feeding frenzy means that gulls will take everything that floats in the vicinity.

 They also deprive people trying to feed the ducks and swans because they move away when bombarded by marauding gulls. People innocently and naively carry a white carrier bag to feed the ducks, in effect the carrier bag is a flag to the gulls to come and get it!
Gulls are intelligent and only need fed once or twice to remember you, so remember  feed them at your peril, because you will never get peace to feed the ducks or swans in future.
For all the talk amongst the powers that be, there are still no decent sized signs placed strategically around the Town warning people NOT TO FEED THE GULLS.

 The bins are still allowed to overflow and give easy access to the gulls. Personally, we should start exercising a bit of control over our own species - before we start killing another ! 


Anonymous said...

To quote "Misguided townies who think the birds are starving because they are always on the scrounge are doing the seagulls no favours by throwing them food. They are in effect creating townie seagulls who are unlikely to head to the seashore when they are being fed by benefactors."

I'm sure the same can be said for the swans that you feed which are more or less domesticated and I'm sure the cygnet's struggle to fend for themselves when the parents finally chase them away from their primary food source, which is you.

Funny that!

jayteescot1 said...

Funny that I knew you would be the first to respond. There is no comparison, the species are completely different in every respect. The swans and ducks are grazers and not predators. This morning they were out at sea grazing on seaweed and not fed by me. All cygnets throughout the land get chased away by their parents and have to find a new food supply, it is part of their life. I merely make sure that during their upbringing there is adequate food supply in the river for them to eat.

Bill said...

If there's not enough food in the river at all times to sustain the wild birds then they should be encouraged to move away, not fed. As your blog shows the river is hardly the ideal habitat for the likes of the swans and ducks as so many predators are attracted to the area, and then there are the issues such as spates.

In reality the swans and ducks would arguably do better on one of the many lochs and lochens that are around the area

As for feeding gulls this in part is human nature, wrong as it may seem to some people, but then Joe your feeding of certain birds can also be seen in a similar light

Ideally none of us would feed wild birds or animals apart from in the severest of winters. If we are so minded we should just observe them, and not encourage them to come near us for food, nor make them dependent on humans for sustenance

Just my thoughts on the matter

jayteescot1 said...

The posting and debate is on the issue of the gulls and their apparent problem to many in the Town. Citing me feeding the one pair of swans, and the ducks in the river for comparison, is not exactly relevant to the issue of town gulls. I see where your coming from but disagree with your assertion that they should be "encouraged to move away". They are after all water birds and can choose what patch of water they wish to inhabit. If there were so many suitable lochs they would already have moved and nothing is stopping them from leaving if they so wish. It is an estuary and will always have a variety of birds feeding and living there, even if I stopped feeding them. It may not be ideal but good enough to sustain one resident pair of swans and a population of ducks. All tidal river estuaries have a population of water birds, ours is no different. All of us are dependent in some form or another, humans in particular are more dependent than most species if you think about it.