Wild birds and seagulls

Wild birds and seagulls in urban areas

Urban areas are attractive to wild birds as they provide food, water and safe breeding sites. But too many birds can often annoy residents and visitors.

  • bird droppings are unpleasant and can damage buildings and vehicles
  • droppings on pavements can become slippery and dangerous.
  • seagulls can attack bins causing a littering problem
  • they can pester people eating food
  • they can show signs of aggression when their chicks are young

Bird feeding 

Many people enjoy feeding the birds, particularly in their garden. But this can cause problems by attracting larger birds like gulls and pigeons. This may deter the smaller garden birds from visiting and nesting in your garden.

A regular supply of bird food and water may also attract rodents, such as rats, to your garden.  In such cases we would advise to stop feeding the birds and follow the advice on our Pest control webpage.

If you want to feed birds in your garden:

  • only put out small amounts of food
  • only use appropriate bird seed or fat-balls; never human food, such as food scraps
  • use a purpose-built bird feeder that is raised off the ground, rather than a bird table
  • clean up spilt seed from the ground every day
  • never feed birds or other animals by placing food on to the ground

If bird feeding is attracting gulls and larger birds to your garden you should stop feeding the birds. This may also allow the smaller garden birds to return.

Can the Council stop people from feeding birds?

There is no specific law stopping a person from feeding wild birds in their gardens.

We may be able to help if a person is leaving food out for the birds in public places.

Speak with your neighbour if their bird-feeding is causing you problems.

If bird-feeding is the cause of an infestation of rats or mice, follow the advice our Pest control webpage.

If your neighbour is a tenant, the lease may not allow bird feeding. Contact your neighbour’s housing officer or landlord.

Wild birds and waste

Gulls and other pests are always attracted to food waste. This could be in public litter bins or commercial food waste bins. Household waste stored in gardens can also attract pests. The following advice will help minimise the problem:

  • Waste stored in gardens or yards should be in a pest proof container such as metal/plastic bin with a secure lid
  • Do not allow bins to overflow, and clean often. Particularly commercial waste bins containing a high proportion of food
  • Where there is a local problem with gulls or other pests, put out household waste in secure lidded bins
  • Where this is not possible, waste sacks should be covered with sheeting or placed in seagull proof bags. You can buy these from Cornwall Council
  • Where there is a gull problem you should only put out your household waste on the morning of collection
  • Please report any overflowing litter bins to Cornwall Council waste team.

Birds nesting on property

All wild bird species, their eggs and nests are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

You are breaking the law if you:

  • intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds
  • intentionally take, damage or destroy a wild bird’s nest while it is being used or built
  • intentionally take or destroy a wild bird’s egg

The best action you can take is to remove old nests once the birds have abandoned them. Then you can carry out bird-proofing to prevent nesting in the future. 

Preventing birds from nesting on property

Wild birds, including gulls, can be discouraged from nesting and roosting on your property using a variety of methods, including:

  • Visual deterrents, such as scarecrows, windmills etc.
  • Auditory bird scarers, such as gas guns (see below)
  • Human disturbance
  • Restricting access to food sources (see bird feeding and waste food above)
  • Modification of loafing and roosting areas (bird-proofing)
  • Habitat management

Further information on these measures can be found in the Natural England Wildlife Management Advice Note. This provides guidance on the legal methods that can be used to help manage certain wild birds lawfully, without the need for a licence.

You could find a pest controller to bird-proof your property. Or you could do the work yourself.

Bird-proofing of property is a matter for the owner or occupier of buildings affected. There is no specific law requiring a person to do this work. 

If you are affected by birds nesting on your neighbour’s property, it is a civil matter. We would advise that you speak with your neighbours or their landlord and/or take legal advice.

Auditory bird scarers

Auditory bird scarers make the sound of gunfire, or sirens, or can mimic the distress call of a bird. 

Do not use auditory bird scarers in towns and villages, or close to residential property. Inappropriate use of a bird-scarer may cause a noise nuisance.

You can use auditory bird scarers in rural areas for the protection of crops - but only as a last resort! Birds get used to scarers, so it’s a good idea to use a variety of scarers to maintain their novelty.

Even on farmland bird-scarers must not cause a noise nuisance. The National Farmers Union has provided some useful guidelines on how to avoid causing a noise nuisance.  See their Protecting your crop – bird scarers code of practice.

Aggressive gulls

Gulls can display aggressive behaviour during the breeding season. This is when the adult gulls are protecting their chicks.

If the gulls are attacking people, an authorised person can apply for a licence from Natural England to control the birds.

An authorised person is a landowner/occupier. It can also be a person authorised by the landowner/occupier, like a pest controller.

Please note that the general licence no longer applies to gulls. An authorised person must apply for a special licence to control gulls.

The screening and application process can take up to 6 weeks. The chicks will have usually fledged in this time.

The most common-sense solution is to try to avoid the birds during this period. You should work with your neighbours to deter gulls nesting in the future.

Can I complain to the Council about wild birds and seagulls?

We are unable to help with complaints about wild birds and seagulls on privately-owned property/land.

You can call Natural England’s Wildlife Licensing Unit for free advice on 020 802 61089. Or you can email an enquiry to their Species Management Team at wildlife@naturalengland.org.uk

We do not deal with complaints about noise from wild birds or animals.  For complaints about noise from caged birds, please see our Noise nuisance webpage.

Complaints about roosting pigeons can be reported to the Community Protection Team at the contact details at the bottom of this page.

Complaints about wild bird or gulls on Cornwall Council owned/managed property, can be reported to estatesdelivery@cornwall.gov.uk or call 0300 1234 232.

Complaints about wild bird or gulls on Town or Parish owned/managed property, can be reported to the relevant Town or Parish Clerk.

Complaints about gulls attacking household waste put out for collection in inappropriate containers or put out too early can be reported to the Cornwall Council Refuse and Recycling Team or call 0300 1234 141.

Complaints about significant deposits of bird-droppings on roads and pavements can be reported to the Street Cleansing Team or call 0300 1234 141.

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