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 19 November 2018

Gulls! Gulls! Gulls! How the seaside birds took over urban Britain

In the last 30 years, gulls have come among us as never before. But is their moment coming to an end as we tackle our waste problem?

Fri 16 Nov 2018 07.00 GMTLast modified on Fri 16 Nov 2018 09.53 GMT

When was the last day you didn’t see a gull? Throughout Britain we ordinarily cross paths with these birds more often than with any other wild creature. They are hard to avoid. In the last 30 years – the lifespan of a large gull – they have come among us as never before. Though still popularly regarded as seagulls, many have moved inland, far from the seaside or saltwater. They have adapted to life in many places we have made, and they have thrived.

Cities and their hinterlands where we jettison our rubbish now sustain far more gulls than the birds’ former more traditional marine habitats. Indeed, in a paradox that might define the Anthropocene era, surviving coastal birds are now regarded as threatened with local extinction, while the same gull species in urban areas are so prevalent they are thought of as pests.

Almost every human inhabitant of Britain’s cities could watch gulls every day if they wanted to. Urban rooftop nesting gull colonies are now spread throughout the UK. The birds feed among us, on our streets, as well as on our rubbish dumps. Many people are on their guard, however, because, one way or another, they have met the birds before and haven’t necessarily enjoyed the encounter. Gulls are frighteningly big – of a scale that seems out of sorts with their new habitat. They are loud. Their clawed feet stamp about the place. They lift off and fly with skill and menace, suggesting both ancient winged dinosaurs and futuristic drone ops. They seem to have an uncanny knowledge of what is going on and how to turn it to their advantage.

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