Businesses and residents urged to play their part in tackling nuisance gulls in Huntly

Perhaps not known as a gull hotspot, lying around 20 miles from the coast of the Moray Firth, Aberdeenshire Council has been receiving complaints about the birds from residents and businesses in Huntly.

The complaints have highlighted issues with nuisance gulls at the town’s industrial estate and in the town centre, where some people have been feeding them.

People who live around Steven Road and Depot Road, business owners and employees at the estate have all had cause for concern.

Environmental health officers have been investigating the complaints, which mainly relate to attacks, droppings and early morning noise.

Attacks on people and sometimes pets are known to increase later in the summer, when chicks have fledged and there is more competition for food.

Large colonies have been identified on the roofs of particular businesses, but smaller groups of nests exist across the estate, on the roofs of portable cabins.

At least one firm on the industrial estate has already taken action, spending money on deterrents, and locals hope others may follow their lead and tackle the problem.

The birds will take any opportunity to scavenge for food in open skips or take easy pickings from open buildings.

They perch on the ridges of rooftops, signs, lighting columns or portable cabins and make a nest in any spot that’s hospitable and protected from predators.

The businesses and landowners where problems have been observed have now been contacted and given advice on how best to reduce the nuisance.

Although environmental health officers have seen minimal gull activity around the council’s Household Waste and Recycling Centre, staff there have been given further advice to ensure there is as little food as possible available for the birds.

Information on how best to disrupt the habits of the birds while staying within council policy, which is to cause no harm to birds or their chicks, has also been provided.

Eggs and nests without chicks can however be removed to reduce the number of birds later in the season, but action has to be taken as early in the year as possible.

Officers will also be speaking to local schools in the new term to highlight the issues and ensure these are not an easy source of food.

Away from the industrial estate, in the centre of town, there is a colony of birds living on the roof of a business premises and officers have been providing advice to deter people who have been seen feeding the birds with large quantities of food.

Aberdeenshire Council has been running a project to tackle the issue of nuisance gulls in the coastal towns of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Stonehaven for two years.

Most recently, it helped private property owners in Peterhead, mostly businesses, remove dozens of nests and eggs from buildings in the town centre.

If eggs have already hatched and birds have fledged, the remaining nests can be cleared, and steps to prevent re-infestation in the future can be taken.

The council is keen to work with other local communities which are affected by nuisance gulls to see if this project can be replicated elsewhere.

“Although at this stage the majority of complaints relate to noise disturbance and the mess from droppings, very soon the birds will have chicks and parents are known to get more aggressive, sometimes attacking people in the area of their nests and chicks,” said local councillor Gwyneth Petrie (Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford), who has received complaints from constituents about the issue.

“While some business owners have already taken steps to tackle the issue, for the benefit of the local community there are others who could make a big difference by assessing any issues relating to their own property and thinking about how best to deal with that this year and in future years.”

Cllr Margo Stewart (Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford), added: “We urge local businesses to seek advice and act as soon as they can to make it more difficult for the seagulls to get comfortable in future – it’s important to remember this is not their natural habitat and their diet in towns is generally not good for their health.

“This equally applies to anyone considering feeding the gulls in the town centre – not only is it adversely affecting the lives of members of the community, it generally is not good for the gulls and encourages them to make their home in an environment which is not natural or healthy for them.”

More information on the council’s Nuisance Gull Strategy and the Seagull Survivor’s Guide, as well as contact details for the council’s preferred contractor for dealing with nuisance gulls, can be seen on Aberdeenshire Council's website.