There are six species of gull commonly found in Scotland but if you think ‘seagull’ belongs on the list, think again! In fact, there’s no such thing as a ‘seagull’ – it’s simply the term commonly used to refer to the gull family which includes herring gulls, black-headed gulls, lesser and great black-backed gulls, common gulls, and kittiwakes.
Where do gulls live?
Although gulls are most commonly associated with the seaside, many have adapted to live in urban environments where there is a plentiful food supply.
Gulls tend to live in sizeable colonies, building their nests anywhere from seaside cliffs and sand dunes to grassy playing fields and city-centre roofs.
What do gulls eat?
Gulls are excellent hunters and will catch small fish and other sea creatures from the surface of the water.
Whilst kittiwakes typically only forage at sea, other types of gulls feed on almost anything they can get their beaks on.
Town centres, freshly ploughed fields and land fill sites provide the perfect foraging grounds for gulls. Some will even be brave enough to steal a chip from your hand!
Herring and black-headed gulls in particular can be found ‘charming worms’ on pastures, playing fields and other grassy areas.
When are gull chicks born?
Gulls return to breeding colonies early in the year and lay their eggs toward the end of April.
Chicks hatch in early summer and, after around 30 days, fledgling gulls start learning to fly.
When do gulls migrate?
It’s most common to see juvenile gulls in July before they migrate to warmer countries from August to October. Gulls from colder climates also arrive in Scotland during this time. They will remain in their wintering locations from November until January.
Why do gulls ‘dive-bomb’?
Gulls are fiercely protective of their young and even other birds in their colony.
Gulls have been known to show ‘mobbing behaviour’ to chase off predators and other intruders. If a gull is dive-bombing, it’s likely that it has a nest with eggs or hatchlings nearby and they feel threatened by you.
Try to give nesting gulls a wide berth. However, if you need to pass through an area where gulls are nesting, try wearing a hat or using an umbrella to protect yourself.
Common problems for gulls
Sick or injured gulls
If you come across a gull that has been injured or looks sick, please place a box over them and call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
Signs to look for include:
• Obvious injuries.
• An adult gull that is unable to fly.
• Being caught and injured by another animal.
• Seeming lethargic or not moving.
• Tangled in litter.
• Twitching or head-shaking.
• Falling over, trembling or convulsing.
• Walking around in circles.
• Holding their head at an abnormal angle.
Young chicks away from their nests may also need our help. Monitor them for a period of time. If the parents do not return, place a box over them and call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
Juvenile gulls with drooping wings
When young gulls are growing, their wings can be too heavy for them to lift giving them a drooped appearance. It’s usually nothing to worry about but if you’re concerned, call our helpline on 03000 999 999 for further advice.
It’s common for young gulls to stick their legs out straight in from of them to slow their descent. If you notice a gull with a slight limp, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Monitor them from a distance. If the limp doesn’t improve within 24 hours, place a box over the gull and call our helpline on 03000 999 999.
Missing feet or legs
Missing limbs could be the result of a natural deformity, an attack, an accident or a historic injury.
When natural materials such as twigs and grasses are limited, gulls will adapt by using whatever materials they find such as string, twine and human hair. These can get wrapped around hatchlings’ limbs in the nest, eventually cutting off the blood supply as they grow.
This can put birds at a disadvantage against predators and affect their chances of survival in the wild.
However, birds missing toes or a foot are often still capable of flying and fending for themselves, so it is not always possible to catch them. If the bird is an adult and otherwise looks healthy, they should be left alone.
Although gulls seem prevalent in towns and cities, their numbers are actually in decline.
This is thought to be due to a dwindling supply of fish and other sea creatures.
Their natural behaviours are often characterised as scavenging, aggressive or a nuisance so some people have an unfavourable opinion of gulls.
Like all birds, gulls are protected by law therefore it is illegal to cause harm to a gull or to destroy their eggs.
Prey for other animals
Gull chicks and eggs are particularly vulnerable to being preyed upon by other animals.