Seagulls, the cries of seagulls and seagulls that attack have, over the years, become part of everyday life for many Danes. Residential developments are being built like never before, especially around the old harbour areas in the cities, where you may find that an annoying neighbour moves in with you as well. The ocean view comes with a price, since the areas near the sea are the seagulls’ natural habitat.
• Danes find the seagulls a nuisance
• Seagull control
• Removal of seagull’s nests
• Species of seagulls in Denmark
• Herring gull control
• The seagull’s food
• The seagull’s habitat
5 quick questions about seagulls
Seagulls begin building their nests in February and March, and are typically ready to breed during April.
Seagulls return to the previous years’ nests. In June and July, the young gulls are large enough to leave their nests. They are not always fully-fledged.
Hunting season only applies to herring gulls. The other seagull species are protected. Thus, it is not permitted to dispose of seagull eggs unless you have a special permit.
In the spring, you are allowed to dispose of old nests or nests under construction without a special permit.
Seagulls built their nests in environments where they feel safe. They also choose locations that are close to sources of food. This is typically on roofs, landings and balconies.
Seagulls are a nuisance to Danes
In urban areas, seagulls are a nuisance in numerous ways. The seagulls call to each other and during the period from late spring to late summer in particular, they make an awful lot of noise, since this is when they have young gulls in their nests. They will attack anything they feel is a threat to their nests, eggs and young and they are very aggressive during this period.
Cries of seagulls and attacking seagulls are not the only things that are a nuisance if you have seagulls close to your home. Their droppings can damage cars, masonry, roofs and windows if they are not cleaned off. Their droppings contain matter that corrodes, and can cause long-lasting damage.
In Denmark, it is mostly the common gull and the herring gull that move into the cities. Of the two, the herring gull causes the most problems and is the biggest nuisance to people, since it is loud and can be aggressive.
The common gull is mostly placid and is not as much of a nuisance to people.
Seagull prevention and control
If you are plagued by seagulls, there are a lot of small measures you can take. You can put up wires, spikes or netting on roofs and sills to prevent the seagulls from building nests. However, methods using wires, spikes and netting have the disadvantage, that this will merely shift the seagull problem to another building nearby. In some instances, the seagulls will even find their way around the safeguards.
The seagull population can be kept down by removing all the nests that are just being built between January and March.
During this period, the seagulls build their nests but have not yet laid eggs or had any young, so you may remove them without a special permit during this time.
If you wish to get rid of the seagulls by removing nests with eggs and young, you need a special permit from The National Forest and Nature Agency, as seagulls are protected during the breeding season in Denmark. This means that during certain periods, no seagull control can be carried out.
One method of regulation used in some places is to shoot the seagulls. This is done by professional hunters who shoot seagulls around housing estates on a regular basis. However, many citizens are not too keen on having people shooting near their homes for safety reasons. Drones are a great and safe alternative to this.
Using drones to remove seagull’s nests
It can be difficult crawling around on roofs searching for seagull’s nests. However, technology is on our side, and we now have a new tool in the fight against seagulls – drones.
Drones have been tried out as a method of removing seagull´s nests in various places. The drones are used to locate the nests on roofs and observe the activity in the nests. Once the seagulls have laid their eggs, the drones are sent up to spray the eggs with paraffin oil. The paraffin oil creates a membrane around the eggs and prevents the formation of embryos. If you merely remove the eggs, you run the risk that the seagulls will simply lay new eggs. That is why it makes sense to cover the eggs in paraffin oil to prevent the eggs from ever hatching in the first place.
You need a special permit to remove seagull’s nests or treat them with paraffin oil. When you decide to use drones to treat seagull eggs, you also need – in addition to the permit you need to obtain from The National Forest and Nature Agency – a qualified drone pilot´s licence and to register all of your flights correctly. It is not permitted to fly a drone everywhere and there are many rules that need to be followed. Thus, it is not possible to use drones everywhere in the country.
The most common seagull species in Denmark
There are 10 different seagull species that breed in Denmark. Of these, only 5 are commonly seen in natural habitats:
• Black-headed gull
• Herring gull
• Common gull
• Lesser black-backed gull
• Great black-backed gull
The black-headed gull is the smallest of the five, and it is also the most common one, and is also widespread all over the rest of Europe. The largest part of the population are migratory birds that go south during the winter. Black-headed gulls breed in large colonies consisting of up to 25,000 black-headed gulls. In the colonies, they begin building their nests in late April or early May. The black-headed gull is protected unconditionally in Denmark, and the population has declined in recent years. However, the population still numbers around 80,000 breeding pairs.
The herring gull is another very common breed of bird in Denmark. It is the most common of the large seagulls and often settles in residential areas. The herring gull is light, white and greyish blue with black on the upper wings. It has a strong yellow beak with a red dot. During the winter, it has dark stripes on its head.
The herring gull is omnivorous – it eats anything from fish, small animals, bits of plants, other birds, rubbish and carrion. It is estimated that there are between 55-60,000 breeding pairs in Denmark. In addition, herring gulls often visit from neighbouring countries. They sometimes overwinter in inshore areas or might just arrive for a shorter visit.
The common gull is reminiscent of the herring gull appearance-wise, but is smaller and has a milder facial expression due to its more rounded shape of head. The common gull has a yellowish-green beak and yellowish-green legs.
Following an increase in population in the first half of the 20th century, it declined to its lowest point in the 1980s, when only about 29,000 pairs were left. Since then, the population has stabilised and is now back to a higher level.
The lesser black-backed gull, which is about the same size as the herring gull, is a migratory bird that is rarely spotted during the winter. Of our seagulls, it is the one that can be found furthest out to sea, where it finds most of its food. In 2011, there were only 5,000 breeding pairs left in Denmark.
The great black-backed gull is the largest species of breeding seagull we have, with a wingspan of 150 – 170 cm. In Denmark, almost 50% of the great black-backed gull population breed in three colonies on Saltholm, Hirsholmene and Nordre Rønner on Læsø. The rest of the population consists mainly of individual pairs. Since 2011, when the breeding population was 1800 pairs, it has been in decline.
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The seagull’s food
The type of food seagulls feed on varies from species to species, and also depends on the habitat they have chosen. Most seagulls who live by the coast, feed mainly on fish, although eggs and young from other birds can also be found on the menu.
In urban areas, the seagulls feed on anything and everything from insects to worms to other birds’ eggs and young. Furthermore, they often choose the easiest source of food – rubbish bins. If you have skips and bins that do not close well, that´s an easy spot for the seagulls to find food.
Previously, many seagulls were found around waste disposal sites, since a lot of the edible waste was easy to get to. This is not the case anymore in Denmark, but we still see many seagulls around the cities. They have adapted to life in the city and, in areas with a lot of people, fast food and open rubbish bins, provide more than enough food for a small flock of seagulls.
The seagull’s habitat
Seagulls choose a variety of habitats. Some species, like the lesser black-backed gull prefer to live at sea and is rarely spotted ashore. The great black-backed gull spends nearly all its time at sea or in areas near the shore. Other seagull species are more flexible and can be found far inland, where they feed on insects, worms and other birds’ eggs and young. The herring gull and common gull in particular have, over the past few decades, adapted well to city life close to people. An area of flat roof, some small puddles and a bin on the street will provide enough to feed a breeding seagull pair. It is mostly people in flats who are bothered by the seagulls most. In residential neighbourhoods, you will rarely find large roofs that are suitable for breeding seagulls.