How the seaside gulls took over urban Britain (avian community)


EXCERPT: 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.

[...] 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.

[...] The beginnings of this entangled story can be traced back to little over 100 years ago, when gulls first shifted from being seagulls. [...] Severe winters in the late 1890s drew the birds upriver from even harsher coastal conditions.

[...] But gulls are losing out at our hands much more than the other way around. [...] Little food waste is now going into landfill. We are still too wasteful, but now most gull-edible trash is being composted or incinerated. That is surely good, but it also means that the good times for [...] gulls are over. They will have to shift their behaviour once more. We’ve seen them do it before – but will they manage again?


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