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Why are seagulls protected species in the UK?

Seagulls are protected in the UK. (Picture: UK)

Seagulls are commonplace by the seaside, but increasingly, their presence has increased in urban areas and so have incidents involving the traditionally coastal birds.

Councils as far as 40 miles from the sea have been warning about seagulls, some of which can become aggressive during their nesting season and when rearing young.

Research by Bristol University showed that the number of urban gull colonies in the UK and Ireland has doubled from 239 in 2,000 to 473 in 2015.

Experts claims the gulls are attracted to urban areas because of the abundance of food waste, such as chicken bones.

However, seagulls are protected in the UK, so dealing with nuisance gulls can be tricky.

Why are seagulls protected in the UK?

Like all wild birds, seagulls and their eggs and nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This piece of legislation protects all animals, plants and habitats in the UK.

Seagulls have become an increasing presence in cities in the UK. (Picture: Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

The RSPB website explains: ‘This makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is also illegal to prevent birds from accessing their nest and, in Northern Ireland, it is illegal to disturb any nesting bird.’

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, a wild bird is defined as any bird of a species which is resident in or is a visitor to the European Territory of any member state in a wild state. So seagulls fall under this definition and are therefore protected.

Intentionally killing or injuring a seagull is a criminal offence and offences against wildlife carry a penalty fine of around £5,000 or even a jail term. 

The RSPB suggest that a few ways to deter seagulls from continue to move inland could include: ‘rendering nest sites inaccessible, reducing the organic waste taken to landfill sites and, in towns, preventing street littering.’


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