Monday, 8 August 2011

Cardiff’s Seagulls

Walking through the city centre recently I saw two gulls grab a Panini off a diner’s plate and pull it apart in the middle of the street. This is not an uncommon sight in Cardiff as more people attempt to eat outside during the warmer weather.

A recent attack in Cardiff Bay involved a seagull swooped down and carrying away a per-peri chicken from a man’s plate. The waiters showed little surprise and brought out a replacement meal.

These incidents are usually presented in a humorous light, but in Cardiff the joke is wearing thin. Soon only unwary visitors may be dining al fresco in parts of the city, with possible economic consequences.

Cardiff has one of Britain’s largest gull populations. The city has plenty of flat roofs, on which gulls can nest, and abundant food for the taking. In a recent press interview, seagull expert Peter Rock said his research showed that Cardiff’s seagull population had more than doubled since 2006 (up to 3,339 nesting pairs).

For many years, pigeons (“rats with wings”) were public enemy no.1. Urban gulls are, however, larger, more aggressive, noisier, messier, and create a bigger nuisance than feral pigeons. They potentially leave more dirt, do more damage to buildings, keep people awake at night, and peck open refuse sacks.

Gulls are rightly protected by law (The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) in their natural habitats on sea cliffs. However, urban gulls are another matter entirely. It may be time to consider better measures to reduce the nuisance they cause.

Researchers in Aberystwyth have tried the subtle approach, by installing speakers transmitting the sound of distressed seagulls to prevent gulls snatching food from outdoor diners (although what effect this noise had on the diners was not reported).

The video below is not by me and it was not filmed in Cardiff, but it looks almost identical to an incident I witnessed in St Mary Street when a gull swooped down and took a burger from a tourist who had just emerged from the McDonald's near Cardiff Castle.

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