Herring gulls: Villain or victim?

A few weeks ago I rescued a herring gull chick from the pavement in Aberystwyth, after it fell from it’s nest unable to fly. Unfortunately the fall had resulted in a broken leg and this was so badly damaged there was nothing that could be done but to take the bird to a vet and end it’s suffering. This was however a much better outcome than the chick slowly dying of dehydration or being hit by a car.

The fallen herring gull chick, sadly judging by it’s feathers it was only days away from being able to fly 


Many people thought I was mad for helping, saying the gull chick was ‘just vermin’, but I don’t see why it’s life was any less valuable than that of a beautiful bird of prey or one of our favorite garden birds like the robin or blue tit?

This got me thinking how, as the bird loving nation we claim to be, we have grown such resentment to one species, when we love and actively encourage others into our lives?

You only need to read recent headlines to see that the human relationship with urban gulls is going from bad to worse. With scaremongering headlines about a gull supposedly snatching a pet chihuahua from a garden, to calls for a nationwide cull there seems to be little love out there for these birds. I personally would like to see this change!

There are several species of gull now taking up residence in our towns and cities including the black-backed gulls, black headed gulls and the most familiar herring gull. Whilst they appear to be widespread and abundant, their populations are actually in serious decline in much of their natural habitat.

Herring gulls in flight

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A lesser black-backed gull


It is our human activities, fishing and habitat destruction around our coastlines, along with the promise abundant food and safe nesting sites which has displaced these birds into our towns and cities.

Once here the gulls have certainly made themselves at home, making their precedence known with earsplitting calls ringing out over the rooftops as they raise their chicks on these substitute cliff ledges and raiding our bins for and easy source of food. Whilst there is no denying the birds can be a nuisance, we can hardly blame the gulls for taking advantage when we are (sometimes quite literally) handing food to them on a plate. 

A herring gull scavenging on litter


With their intelligence and adaptability the key to their success, the urban gulls aren’t going to disappear from our cities any time. Perhaps it is time for us to change our mindset and learn to love these birds for what they are and adapt our own behaviour.

Herring gull on a roof


Why not share your love for the gull? #compassionnotcull

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 ©

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love watching gulls I believe they get a bad press, – It is how we act in their environment which is the issue. I see many bird watchers not bothering to enjoy these clever birds.


  2. naturebackin says:

    You describe their plight well, and it is a situation that affects so many species and it is something that is deeply troubling. I am always amazed that even people who say they are animal/bird lovers pick and choose what to love, and then actively vilify to the point of despising or even hating those they deem to be unattractive or a nuisance. We humans like to think we are intelligent and yet we seem to think we can’t change our behaviour and it is animals and birds that must adapt! Paradoxically, those creatures that are able to adapt the most to their straightened circumstances tend to be the ones that attract the most hate. We so often fail to acknowledge that the biggest source of destruction is us. Thanks for this compassionate post.


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