Sunday 22 July 2018

'It's genuinely dangerous, a child is going to be hurt' - fears over seagull influx in seaside town

Seagulls fight over scraps in Howth, Dublin
Photo: PA
Seagulls fight over scraps in Howth, Dublin Photo: PA

Rachel Farrell

Residents of a North Dublin seaside town have spoken out about the apparent influx of seagulls in residential areas during the hot weather.

According to pest control experts, complaints regarding out-of-hand birds in Dublin have increased by 41pc during the heatwave.

Independent councillor Jimmy Guerin said seagulls in the Howth area are becoming a "major issue" for residents as more birds are flocking to the coast because of the heat.

"It's a huge issue at the moment. It's genuinely come to the stage where it's dangerous for families to walk along the pier as well," he told Independent.ie.

"I've had a lot of people come to me about it over the last few weeks. They're coming down and taking food out of people's hands."

According to Cllr Guerin, one of the main issues is that people continuing to feed the gulls on the streets.

"It's a major issue that needs to be addressed as a major urgency before someone is hurt. A child is going to be hurt one of these days, they can be very aggressive.

"I think we need similar legislation like in certain counties in the UK where people are fined for feeding them."

One local resident, Deirdre Durkan, said the seagulls appear to be becoming more threatening every year. 

"We've had seagulls nesting on the roof for years, every year they come back and have two or three babies," she told Independent.ie.

"Once the chicks are born the parents become more protective and you see them swooping down on the children on the road. 

"I think they're becoming more vicious, they're attacking each other and quite often you'll see them bleeding on the road. It's even stopping traffic."

Deirdre also said that seagull droppings are a common complaint among the neighbours.

"Everyone's cars and windows are destroyed. And don't get me started on the washing - my duvet covers are always destroyed on the washing line."

Lara Sheehan was visiting Howth with her daughter last week when a gull swooped down and nabbed a whole fish from their fish and chip box.

"We were about to tuck in when out of nowhere a seagull walloped her in the face with its wing and stole my fish right out of the box," she said.

"Within a second there were at least ten seagulls on the ground beside us. We got such a fright, I threw my chips at the others in self-defence."

A spokesperson for Rentokil Pest Control told Independent.ie that the number of call outs for bird control has increased by 41pc from April to June compared to this time last year and 60pc of the calls are coming from Dublin.

Pigeons, magpies and crows are among some of the most commonly complained about, as well as seagulls and other types of gulls. 

"The influx of gulls could be from the good weather. If you get good weather, food and water for the birds are in abundance," said Richard Faulkner, an advanced technical field consultant for Rentokil.

"A lot of them can also have a second breed, which is why there could be more of them. Because we had the very long and harsh winter with the snow, it pushed back the breeding season."

Mr. Faulkner explained that the reason some gulls swoop down and nab people's food is because it's a "reaction".

"A lot of the time if they're not being fed, it's a reaction to swoop down and take people's chips by the sea. I would advise people to keep their food covered and not to eat in public when there's gulls around."

Fingal County Council have launched a 'seagull survey' in Howth, Skerries and Balbriggan to establish the number of breeding gull nests in the area. 

Members of the public are encouraged to submit observations to Michael Bailey from Roughan and O’Donovan Ltd (ROD), who has been appointed by Fingal County Council to conduct the breeding gull survey over the next three months.

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