Scilly’s Dwindling Gulls Defended As National Backlash Continues

gull in townThere’s been a significant decline in the number of herring gulls on the islands. And, at a time when the seabirds are attracting negative media attention, ornithologists in Scilly are asking locals and visitors to change their behaviour to prevent further decline.

Since May, Dr Vic Heaney and a team of eight volunteers have surveyed gull numbers across fifty of our islands.

Vic’s compared numbers with her data collected in 2000 and 2006 and she says the data is concerning.

There’s been a 25% decrease in herring gulls since 2006 and their populations have tumbled by 40% since 2000.

Jaclyn Pearson of the Seabird Recovery Project based on St Agnes and Gugh wants further studies carried out to identity the reason for the decline.

£250,000 of national research funding was cut in the budget.

It’s thought that climate change is reducing food stocks for seabirds on islands like St Helen’s, Gugh and the outer rocks.

That’s encouraging them to forage in waste bins on St Mary’s and Jaclyn says we need to make it more difficult for them, so they’re pushed back to their normal feeding behaviour.

Vic says it’s important not to feed the gulls because they’ll learn to take food from people.

“They don’t know the difference between someone feeding them a chip and someone about to put it in their own mouth,” she says.

Recently, mainland media has highlighted gull attacks on people and pets.

There are only fifteen pairs of herring gulls recorded in the town and Jaclyn says we should do what we can to stop those negative perceptions developing here, because the birds are part of our maritime heritage.

If we consider how we consume food outdoors and dispose of waste securely, the gulls won’t be tempted and will be less likely to be perceived as a menace, she says.

A few years ago the Council investigated ‘gull-proof’ bins but officers chose not to buy them. But Jaclyn says you can easily wrap a sheet around rubbish bins to make them impenetrable.

And if you have an ongoing problem with gulls raiding your bins, you should contact to the Town Hall and ask them to help you find better waste management solutions.

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