Feathers ruffled by action targeting gulls

by Sylvia Pownall

BIRDWATCH Ireland says it will “monitor very closely” the removal of seagulls’ nests and eggs in Balbriggan.
Permission to take and destroy gulls’ nests and eggs was last week granted via an order signed by Arts and
Heritage Minister Heather Humphries.
The derogation – which overrides the EU directive protecting birds – is on foot of lobbying by all five Fingal TDs on behalf of local residents.
In March, Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee (FF) told the Seanad that scavenging seagulls posed a serious health and safety risk and had attacked children for food.
But Birdwatch Ireland’s Stephen Newton told The Gazette: “Where is the evidence? There is a level of hysteria attached to this. The herring gull is under threat. My worry is now Skerries will want it [nest/egg removal], Howth will want it – where will it end?”
According to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the work will be overseen locally and Fingal County Council will play no role.
Minister Humphries said: “My Department understands that some community groups are prepared to organise suitable personnel to undertake the work of removing nests and eggs.
“My Department will be requesting any such groups to prepare a report on their activities. This will input into the overall review in 2018.”
The order is confined to the Balbriggan area only and is on a one-year pilot basis – which means if it’s deemed successful, the practice could continue.
A council spokesperson said: “Following the recent derogation made to allow the removal of seagull nests or eggs by property owners/occupiers in part of Balbriggan town, Fingal County Council wishes to clarify it will not be involved in the removal of nests or eggs.”
Mr Newton, who is senior seabird officer with the conservation group, said Birdwatch Ireland would “monitor very closely” the exercise.
He added: “What they are looking for is discarded food, and if they find that they will stick around. To me, the whole solution is people and what they do with their rubbish.
“Gulls are not getting bigger, they are not out to kill you. Nobody in Balbriggan has even bothered counting how many pairs of nesting gulls there are. That is a key issue for conservation.”
Humane control measures for gulls include using decoys, electronic sirens, reflective streamers and lasers.
Mr Newton said: “Think of the abortion controversy. I suppose killing an egg seems less upsetting than killing an adult bird. Ideally, they should try to remove the nest before they lay anything in it.”

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