Girl, 4, left bleeding after nip on face among complaints over 'seagull scourge'

Girl, 4, left bleeding after nip on face among complaints over 'seagull scourge'

The council is considering running a social media campaign to stop people leaving out food for birds. Photo: Larry Cummins

A symphony of squawks, an aggressive gull trying to peck his way through a Velux window, and a four-year-old child nipped on the face by a rampaging bird were among complaints made to a local authority about the scourge of seagulls.

Dublin City Council received multiple complaints from residents amid controversial calls for a cull of seagulls in the city earlier this year.

However, the local authority told those complaining there was very little that could be done as many of the birds were protected species, and others were migratory and would be gone soon. In one incident, a four-year-old child ended up bleeding after being pecked on the face by a gull in St Stephen’s Green.

An email to the city council said: “She [my daughter] was in the buggy right in front of me at the time with a rice cake in her hand. I just wanted to report it as … it was obviously quite traumatic for us all.” 

The parent asked if anything could be done to tackle seagulls “taking over the park” but was told it was a matter for the Office of Public Works who maintain St Stephen’s Green.

In another email to the city council, a homeowner wrote about a “serious problem” with seagulls in the area.

Their email said: “Last Saturday, a seagull tried to enter my home through a Velux window. It absolutely terrified me whilst asleep in bed at 4am.

“It almost broke the glass and was highly aggressive.” The complainant said that seagulls continuously nested in the chimney of the house next door, and that putting up spikes had done nothing to deter them.

“The roof and cars are regularly destroyed with their excretion,” said the email. 

In response, Dublin City Council said that while they understood the frustration – they could not interfere with nesting birds under the EU Birds Directive. It said if gulls were pecking on windows, it could be that they were seeing their own reflection.

The city council’s biodiversity officer Lorraine Bull responded: “I’ve had similar myself … and I put up sheets of paper inside the window to prevent the reflection (which worked).

“For gulls that swoop down, these are probably herring gulls and while they will swoop down, they won’t want to make contact. If you clap loudly or put your arms up, it will deter the birds.” One resident of Dublin 8 said seagulls were destroying cars in their neighbourhood with their “corrosive” droppings.

“They are aggressive also and making the area very unseemly,” said an email. “Is there anything that the council can do to help?” In response, Dublin City Council said they would look into getting ‘no feeding’ signs and also running a social media campaign to stop people leaving out food for birds.

A month later, the person wrote back to say the promised signs had not appeared and they had just seen somebody empty a loaf of bread onto the road.

In a later email, they wrote: “I have spent the afternoon with earplugs in trying to work from home with a symphony of seagulls on my street eating food and on the chimney pots of the houses; on cars and flat roofs. I’m quite literally at my wits end.” 

Near Croke Park, a resident wrote of constant problems with seagulls tearing up rubbish bags.

An email said: “Some residents appear perhaps unaware that seagulls are ripping their bags open as the same residents’ bags have been torn open a number of times.” The city council said the best option was to limit food resources available to them in the hope that they would move elsewhere.

An email said: “[We are] looking at getting some ‘no feeding’ signs to deter people feeding the gulls … [will] also speak to our waste management section in relation to the problems you highlighted.”

Asked about the complaints, a spokeswoman for Dublin City Council said: “[We do] not have a role in the control of seagulls. However, [the council] strongly advises people not to feed the gulls, as this influences the interactive behaviour between birds and humans.

“Seagull species are protected under the EU Birds Directive as they are breeding and nesting birds and it is an offence to disturb nesting birds and their young. The National Parks and Wildlife Service are the authority in Ireland that enforces these laws and we defer to them in this regard.”

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