Seagulls? Who loves them? It’s a sad thing to admit but there aren’t many seagull fans out there, most people hate them.
If there were an avian election the Herring Gull Party would be understandably worried about their deposit. Not surprising really – to anybody who’s had their ice-cream cone stolen seagulls are public enemy number one. Victims of their own success would be a better way to look at it. Gulls, like any intelligent creatures, simply responding to challenges and thankfully coping with most things that humanity throws in their path. Admittedly sometimes they can cope too well - just ask the patrons of the Lidl supermarket in Newcastle how annoyed a local Herring Gull is that they park their cars on his ‘patch’ and, more to the point, won’t feed him. He’s become quite a local celebrity and doesn’t mind visitors (providing you bring a loaf of bread). An attempt has been made to scare him off by erecting a plastic owl, which has only provided an extra place to perch. Let’s just hope the dispute is sorted out amicably as Herring Gulls can live for over 30 years and my money’s on the gull.
Don’t blame gulls though, it’s not their fault that we leave food within beak’s length - who hasn’t been tempted to pick up that half-eaten mars bar on the pavement on an empty stomach? The tall buildings we build are much nicer than draughty cliffs and gulls are intelligent enough to know a plush pad when they see one. What I’m trying to say is that gulls are much more like ourselves than we like to admit – successful, adaptable, courageous (and able to hold a grudge). If ever there were a bird more like us then it’s the seagull.
Sadly, Herring Gulls in Northern Ireland are having a tough time – breeding numbers are down dramatically on 20 years ago. ‘Hear, hear’ some might say but, for those who still cling on to ‘gullophobia’, a vital lesson can be learned from the far east. In the early 1960’s Chinese officials calculated the damage caused to agriculture by sparrows. The nation was mobilised, sparrows were scared into flight across the country until they fell out of the sky and nests were destroyed. The plan was a success and millions of birds of were killed (not just sparrows). What wasn’t calculated was that, with no birds to eat them, insects destroyed the crops. Everything has its place, even a seagull that’s just nicked your chips!