Seagulls bring terror to Belfast skies
They're the terror of the skies – the seagulls pooping on our cars, divebombing our pets and scattering litter round our parks.
But now the airborne menaces are demonstrating a shocking new twist in their behaviour, following a spate of incidents in which seagulls attacked and killed feral pigeons – all in the same part of Belfast.
In some of the attacks the seagulls went on to devour the pigeons they had just killed.
Sharon Whittaker managed to capture on her cameraphone one incident (video above) in which a seagull was eating a pigeon after attacking it behind the Movie House Cinema on the Dublin Road.
"I'm definitely not a bird expert but just generally I've witnessed an increase in seagulls in the city centre, but more recently seagulls eating pigeons," she said.
Sharon said her friend Charlene had seen the same thing happen on several occasions.
"One pigeon was already down and the seagull was eating at it before she saw it, but a taxi driver parked up alongside it said he saw the attack and told her the seagull set upon the pigeon and killed it before eating it," she said.
Meanwhile, journalist John Mulgrew couldn't believe his eyes when a seagull killed a pigeon as he was leaving his apartment in the Dublin Road area.
"This seagull just dandered up, casually grabbed the pigeon by the neck and lifted it up and banged it on the ground five or six times. It was lying there dead, and it just walked off," he said.
"The whole journey into work I was like 'Did I just see a seagull murder a pigeon?'"
Meanwhile, Twitter user 'Belfast Barman' described looking out of his apartment to see a wheelie bin lying on its side with around a dozen seagulls rummaging in it.
"One flew off and landed on the balcony railing on the apartment next to me and dropped some of its haul on the balcony floor," he said.
"A pigeon landed and was pecking at it, the seagull grabbed the pigeon by the wing and flew above the railing, dropped the pigeon to the ground then flew down and literally ate the thing alive.
"It took about 20 minutes or so, but it was hardly recognisable as a pigeon by the end."
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed how tourists were being put off visiting some of the north coast's beaches by the copious amounts of litter scattered from bins by seagulls and crows.
Numerous readers contacted us to tell how they had been terrorised by low-flying gulls, including Richard Gould, who had a seagull divebomb within a couple of centimetres of his head as he walked through an alley off the Lisburn Road.
And communications executive Lorraine Anthony described how she and her boyfriend have had to take a different dogwalking route because they regularly come under attack from seagulls on the Lisburn Road.
"There was a baby bird on a rooftop and we think they were protecting it.
"We got the full assault – the crowing, which sounds like an evil cartoon villain laugh, and swooping at us," she said.
"It was genuinely scary – they're really big. As other people manage to walk by uninterrupted, we think they've taken a dislike to our dog, so while they're on full alert we'll be walking a different route!"
RSPB spokesperson Amy Ryan said: "Pigeons certainly aren't a mainstay of an urban gull's diet. They are mostly carrion feeders but, at this time of year, it wouldn't be surprising to hear of a gull attacking or killing a pigeon if it was trying to protect the area around its nest."
Seagulls: Flying visits norm now as birds banquet on food litter
Seagulls have been homing in on our towns and cities for years now – and we've only got ourselves to blame.
According to the RSPB, herring gulls are particularly adaptable, quick-thinking and bold and our towns have become the perfect new home, thanks to our tendency to leave rich food sources lying around in the form of litter.
Spokeswoman Amy Ryan explained: "From a gull's perspective, cities provide lots of opportunities. As traditional food sources are declining they have learned to forage in landfill sites further inland and on urban streets. Basically, they are taking advantage of our wastefulness."
Herring gulls can be intimidating because of their sheer size and boldness, with males weighing up to 3.5 pounds.
And when it comes to nesting season, they can become particularly aggressive if they believe their young are under threat.
"On a coastal island, if a crow or a great black-backed gull tries to steal and eat an egg or chick, it will be repelled with all the parent gull's strength and other gulls will come to assist," Amy said.
"It is no different in towns and cities. If the gulls believe their eggs or young are in danger, they become very protective and can be aggressive in defence of their young.
"Young gulls often have trouble mastering the art of flying. They have to practise and many get it horribly wrong and land on the ground or get themselves trapped or injured.
"This is when the parent gull swings into full protective mode. If the gull believes you are too close to its youngster and therefore could easily harm it, it will fly over you at great speed – alarmingly close but rarely making contact the first time.
"It is meant to frighten and warn you off. If that doesn't work, the gull will then let you know it means business. If you have an anxious gull parent to contend with, the best advice is to walk with an umbrella up."