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Last Updated: Monday, 5 June 2006, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Gulls who love fast food and chicks
Seagull (generic)
Seagulls attack when they are defending their young
Fast food and easy pickings have wooed a new set of visitors to Belfast city centre.

Commuters call it the season of the divebombing gull.

In city car parks, mother gulls, anxious to protect their young, swoop, then defecate on their victims' heads.

But the city council says it is nature's way. These mothers are protecting their babies, it is not a widespread problem and the public should just steer clear.

The gull breeding season runs from March to the end of July.

The seagulls are abandoning the coast for the bright lights of the city because they have found rich pickings on streets and landfill sites.

Street lighting throws a spotlight on discarded take-away food and the birds can clear the remains of a chicken tikka or a fish supper before the street cleaners arrive.

But people who come too near their chicks in the breeding season - from March to July - could find themselves at risk of being attacked.


Earl d'Hulst, Pest Control Manager with Belfast City Council told BBC News that the females were merely protecting their young.

He played down any Hitchcockian overtones but said staff advised people walking through the courtyard at City Hall to watch out.

"I go up on the City Hall roof when the gulls are nesting. There is a brush to beat them off," he explained.

Mr d'Hulst said man had created the problem and if people did not leave rubbish around, then there would be no urban gulls.

Shooting and drugging the birds are not options, he said.

Spreading a net across your roof should solve any home-based problem.

Out in the city centre, an umbrella or a hard hat may prove the best answer.

UK gull consultant Peter Rock has warned that within ten years, gull colonies could have increased across the United Kingdom to monstrous proportions.


Mr Rock said the gulls issued a series of warnings to possible attackers. There are four steps of aggression.

Step one is the gag call. The problem is, he explained, that the sound is quiet and often, nobody notices it.

After that, the birds sweep at the perceived attacker, from five or six feet - a low pass as a warning.

"All that they are doing is suggesting to you to go away," Mr Rock said.

If the person does not pay attention, the bird may then defecate very accurately straight on top of their victim.

"If you still do not get the message, then they come behind you, diving at 40mph and rake your head with their feet," Mr Rock said.

"Their claws have been manicured on concrete, but they're still very sharp and they draw blood."

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