As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Sidmouth wages war on scavenger seagulls with £80 feeding fines

Feeding the gulls in this part of East Devon can now bring a hefty financial penalty. Will it stop the problem?

Perry King takes a break from cleaning windows in the seaside resort of Sidmouth. “Some of the seagulls do look fat,” he muses. “You look at them and think, that’s a chip bird.”

In this part of East Devon, however, the days of seagulls surviving on a diet of chips, doughnuts, ice-cream and pasties may be coming to an end. Last week the district council became the first in the country to attempt to control the birds’ fondness for junk food through financial sanction. Anyone found deliberately feeding the seagulls in five Devon seaside towns can now be fined £80 under a public spaces protection order.

On a breezy, overcast Friday morning, the seagulls did not seem to be aware of the imminent change in their dietary provision.

“Look, that one there is on its hunting perch,” says King. As soon as he points at the seagull, it swoops down from the top of a lamppost on the seafront and plucks the ice-cream from the hand of an unsuspecting holidaymaker. King gives a running commentary. “The others are following – that’s what they do, they hunt in packs.”

Sue Peters, visiting the town with her husband, had an encounter with a hungry seagull last year that sounds like an outtake from Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds. “I was having an ice-cream when a seagull swooped down and tried to take it from my hand. I shielded it with my back and went down the street, away from the front, to try to get away but it followed me and flew into my back, hitting me. I stumbled forwards and dropped the ice cream. So I thought, ‘Well if I’m not having it, you’re not having it either’, so I picked it up and put it in the bin before the seagull could get it.”


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