Seagull menace: Innovative Fife scheme which tackled issue unlikely to be rolled out

An innovative scheme which yielded success in tackling Fife’s seagull scourge looks unlikely to be rolled out across the region, it has emerged.

And that is bad news for Kirkcaldy which records the highest volume of complaints about the birds.

Members of Fife Council’s environment and protective services sub committee will be asked on Thursday to agree to continue with the current preventative approach to dealing with nuisance gulls and a “targeted, pro-active approach to prevention” in the worst affected areas in advance of the nesting season in 2022 - despite a project in Inverkeithing appearing to pay dividends in recent years.

The Inverkeithing Gull Initiative, which was launched in 2020, saw households in the town’s Boreland estate pay £30 a year into a fund which paid for a private contractor to remove nests and eggs throughout the breeding season.

Picture Michael Gillen

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That led to an 86% reduction in nests resulting in chicks, with a corresponding reduction in the aggressive behaviour associated with parent gulls.

However, the practicalities of replicating such a scheme elsewhere means the council looks set to rely on its ongoing preventative measures, advice, and support on an “as and when required” basis.

John Mills, head of housing, said the evidence from across Scotland suggests no programmes of work have been successful over a sustained period, with the cost of projects such as nest and egg removal, dummy eggs, culling and seagull proofing roofs deemed excessive in comparison to any positive outcomes.

Picture Michael Gillen

Communities have been struggling for years to deal with seagull-related problems, such as aggressive behaviour, bird droppings and nesting materials blocking drains and gutters, but legislation makes controlling the situation even more difficult.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly injure or kill any gull, damage, or destroy an active nest or its contents. It is also illegal to prevent birds from accessing their nests.

Nevertheless, there has been a steady rise in bird-related complaints in recent years, apart from last year due to the wider impact of COVID, fewer people out in public places and less litter attracting birds.

In terms of committee areas, Kirkcaldy sees the highest volume of gull nuisance complaints, followed by South West Fife, Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Levenmouth, North East Fife, with Cowdenbeath seeing the lowest numbers of gull specific complaints.

The former Business Improvement District group, Kirkcaldy4All, undertook a programme of nest and egg removal between 2011 and 2015 through procurement of a private contractor, with gull nests and eggs removed six times throughout the nesting season.

However, it required a substantial ‘buy-in’ from those taking part, in terms of effort and finances, while gulls were removed from the General Licence - which allows any homeowners to act or authorise action without having to apply for a licence - in 2020.

While it now looks like it is up to individual areas or groups to pursue any tailored schemes, the Fife-wide approach will be to continue carrying out campaigns in the worst affected areas.

That will include new signage warning people not to feed gulls, increased visits to commercial premises, schools and local community groups to advise of the impact of littering, and increased patrols by Safer Communities Officer.

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