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Why are ‘bad boy’ seagulls stalking Islington’s streets?

14:45 24 August 2016

Seagulls in St John's Grove (Picture: Polly Hancock)

Seagulls in St John's Grove (Picture: Polly Hancock)

Archant

Last week, we revealed that a colony of seagulls is “terroising” St John’s Grove in Archway. In a guest column, Will McCallum, of Canonbury-based Greenpeace, explains why the “bad boys of seaside resorts” have found their place on our rooftops.

Will McCallumWill McCallum

Steely gazed and perfectly preened, gulls are stalking the streets of Islington and Hackney asserting themselves in their new city home. Seagull has never been the correct term for these birds, but now seems even more inappropriate - just plain old ‘gull’ will do. Stories like last week’s Islington Gazette front page describing gull mayhem on an Archway street are becoming more common. The bad boys of seaside resorts have found their place on the rooftops of London.

Exactly why numbers have boomed in the past few years isn’t completely understood, but reasonable guesses include the constant supply of food spilling from our bins satisfying their scavenging nature and tall buildings to nest in, keeping their eggs and chicks out of reach of predators like foxes and rats.

Islington Gazette front page: August 18, 2016Islington Gazette front page: August 18, 2016

Whether it’s young black-headed gulls searching for worms in Victoria Park, or more recognisable, boisterous herring gulls on Holloway Road tossing around fast food scraps with hooked yellow beaks, these neighbours are here to stay. Are these new residents a pest wreaking havoc on the high street, or a welcome guest filling our skies with the sound of holidays past? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, it’s best not to feed them. If cities really are the place for these birds, it’s probably better they seek their own fortune and not be encouraged by us. Gulls are hardy animals; they’re used migrating thousands of miles through the harsh sea-spray only to find themselves at the wind-battered cliffs of our coast – they’ll be fine.

Silhouetted against our muggy summer skies there is something absurd about these magnificent birds choosing to feed from the pavements of Islington and Hackney; their high pitched ‘queeee-ooh’ bouncing off our concrete estates.

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