Drones sent in to survey impact of seagull infestation

Drones sent in to survey impact of seagull infestation
Two seagulls on a back garden gate in Balbriggan.

An infestation of seagulls in three towns has forced the local council to conduct a survey of nests and eggs using drones.

The survey was conducted late last year in North Dublin following complaints from a large group of residents and businesses and after petitions from a number of councillors.

Balbriggan, Skerries, and Howth were surveyed by an engineering contractor hired by Fingal County Council at a cost of €13,500.

Since May 2017, there has been a derogation from the EU directive on wild birds for the removal of nests and eggs in Balbriggan, but this has not been extended to the other towns.

The 57-page report found:

  • 232 nests were identified in the limited areas of Balbriggan, 72 in Skerries, and 147 in Howth;
  • 451 gull nests were identified;
  • Apart from three positively identified black-backed gull (larus marinus) nests in Balbriggan, all the nests were identified as herring gulls (larus argentatus).

The survey is the latest move in what has become a major issue along the north Co Dublin coast since the closure of a major landfill in 2013.

The Department of Heritage, Culture, and the Gaelteacht has established a “consultative committee” to examine gull migration into urban areas and what measures can be taken to deal with problems. There have been reports in Balbriggan of physical damage to homes and businesses, as well people refusing to allow their children out during the spring hatching season.

“If I had a gun, I’d shoot them all,” says Anne Cullen, a grandmother who has lived in the town all her life.

“They are unreal. I can’t let my grandchildren out of my home during springtime when they’re at their worst.”

Truck driver Ed Gildea said: “I have a legal obligation to be rested because I drive heavy goods vehicles, but it was broken sleep all the time. I tried sleeping downstairs, in other rooms, but it was no good. It was the same for the whole family. Nobody should have to put up with that.”

A group of residents in Balbriggan is pushing for an expansion of the derogation to remove nests, claiming that the gulls pose a public health risk which should obliged the local authority to provide a managed service to remove nests and eggs.


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