Tough tactics starting to address nuisance gull issues in Peterhead

Measures to tackle aggressive and nuisance gulls in the centre of one of the UK’s busiest fishing ports are showing signs of progress two years in.

The number of attacks on people in Peterhead, on the Aberdeenshire coast, have reduced following the removal of eggs and nests during the breeding season over the last two years.

Working with local businesses and landlords, Aberdeenshire Council has been taking the direct action following complaints from the local area about the effect the birds are having on daily life.

They are well known for stealing food from people daring to eat al fresco and can become extremely aggressive to anyone coming close to their nests once chicks have hatched.

The removal of the nests and eggs is part of a wider programme of activity to deal with nuisance gulls and is carried out in partnership with local businesses, supported by council town centre regeneration funds.

In the second year of concerted activity to push the gulls away from the town centre and back to their natural environment, 156 nests and 307 eggs were removed during this year’s breeding season.

Last year, 171 nests and 378 eggs were removed from the same town centre homes and businesses.

On each occasion four visits were carried out, starting in May and ending in July, with the consent of the property owners. Birds will rebuild nests, so it’s important to keep going back.

Figures for the peak nesting season in mid-May in both years suggest that the number of pairs of breeding gulls in the target area around the town centre was 77 in 2016 and dropped to 60 in 2017.

While there may be variations between breeding seasons the drop in nests suggests there is a downward trend, supporting the continuation of the removal programme.

It is expected it will take five years of focused activity before the impact of the nest and egg removal programme will be fully known.

Other work which has taken place to tackle nuisance gulls includes the production of a Survivor Guide to help inform people about the issue and the flying of hawks to deter gulls from the area.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Project Officer (Peterhead Town Centre), Heather Barclay, said: “Anecdotally, complaints about nuisance gulls in the peak summer period last year significantly reduced, something not seen in other towns where nest and egg removal didn’t take place.

“The number of nests and eggs removed from the same buildings this year has also reduced, and given birds return to the same locations to nest each year this is another encouraging sign.

“The number of nests removed is most significant, as the number of eggs laid can fluctuate with seasonal variations, such as weather and food sources, so it’s good to see that number falling – we can justifiably say birds are now being put off nesting in the town centre as a result of their breeding being thwarted.

“However, we know it will be several more years of trying before we know whether this is really working and if it’s had a truly positive effect on local people and businesses.

“Clearly this work couldn’t be done without the support of the local businesses, property owners and landlords who have given us permission to access their buildings and are paying for the removal, so we have to thank them for their faith in what we’re trying to do – improve the town for everyone.”

The Survivor’s Guide to Living With Urban Gulls, which gives information to residents and businesses on what can be done to tackle related issues, is being refreshed and updated, but in the meantime, the current version is available online (PDF 960KB): http://bit.ly/GullSurvivorGuide