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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Suburban seagulls lower the tone
Gulls are breaking the suburban peace
People in upmarket areas of Edinburgh are calling on the city council to provide urgent help in solving the nuisance of seagulls.

The gulls have been swooping on helpless schoolchildren in playgrounds and householders have complained about being woken by their screeching at in the early hours.

Binbags have been raided with rubbish scattered across the street and broody gulls have been protecting their young by threatening humans who get too close.

The herring gulls - called laughing gulls by the Americans for their raucous cry - have been nesting on tenement roofs in South Edinburgh for more than a decade.

Ultimately we are hoping that they will set up a seagull squad

Hugh Wilson, guesthouse owner
But there is still little consensus about how to remove them and the problem is the subject of a meeting on Wednesday, organised by local seagull action groups.

Self-help has so far been the order of the day, with residents in Merchiston and Bruntsfied clearing nests from roof-tops and even introducing a hawk to frighten the gulls away.

Now, they want to enlist the council's aid.

Hugh Wilson, who runs a guesthouse in Hartington Gardens, said: "The council will be sending representatives to the meeting and we will make it clear we want their help. Ultimately we are hoping that they will set up a seagull squad."

'Good scran'

But the residents may be out of luck since the council's view is that the problem is caused by people leaving too much rubbish on the streets.

"Over the years seagulls have come to understand that black binbags contain good scran", said spokesman, David Bate.

The council has produced a leaflet which says that by ensuring that all residents have "wheelie-bins" in which to put the rubbish, binbags on the street will become a thing of the past.

Rubbish dump
The birds thrive on rubbish
But the campaigners claimed that a cut in refuse collections has meant bags are overflowing from bins.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has warned that the residents' options are limited, because culling or removing nests is illegal.

Use of the hawk to scare the gulls is legal but an RSPB spokesman admitted it was unlikely to be successful.

Peoples' fforts so far may merely have shifted the problem by a few hundred yards.

According to local councillor Sue Tritton, who has been helping the campaign, householders from nearby Morningside are now complaining because the gulls have moved into their area instead.

She said that although the hawk had been used successfully in small towns like Dumfries it was unsuitable in a big city.

"In a small town you can clear it entirely, but imagine the number of hawks you would need in Edinburgh - all flying at the same time - to avoid moving the problem from one area to another," she added.

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