Wildlife Corner: The Herring Gull

With their raucous cry and confident, self-assured attitude, herring gulls are among the most conspicuous wildlife on our campuses; shy and retiring they are not. Which is why it may come a surprise to learn that they are listed as being of conservation concern, with their population more than halving in the past 25 years. This general decline has coincided with an expansion of urban populations as changes in food availability has encouraged them to scavenge for waste food in towns and cities. Which in turn has led to conflict with humans.

There have been a number of incidents recently, with gulls taking food from people’s hands outside Fulton House. Teaching them to associate people with food, by deliberate feeding or dropping litter is leading them to try to mug unsuspecting people for their lunch, even causing injury. Gull conservation is best addressed though habitat protection and restoring damaged marine ecosystems rather than artificially boosting urban numbers, so please don’t feed the gulls!

How to avoid being mugged by a gull:

  • Be alert and keep your food close to your body
  • Avoid eating in open spaces overlooked by buildings – gulls will spot you from a distance and swoop down
  • Try eating with your back against a wall so they can’t approach from behind
  • You are much less likely to be attacked in a wooded area such as the Botanic Garden or Singleton Park – these are great spots for a picnic
  • If they walk up to you, shoo them off – they might be big and scary, but you are bigger and scarier!