A later breeding season, prompted by cold spring weather, has been blamed for increasingly aggressive behaviour by gulls, with St Brelade’s Bay, Havre des Pas and parts of St Helier among the bird-attack hotspots.
A young child was injured in St Brelade’s Bay on Monday when a gull swooped and attempted to steal food, with business owners lamenting the fact that many visitors ignore warnings about not feeding the birds.
Mick Dryden, chairman of the ornithology section of the Société Jersiaise, said that gulls had been among several species of birds that had failed to breed successfully at the usual time of year as a result of a spell of very warm weather in March followed by an extended cold and wet period.
He said: ‘Young gulls would usually have fledged by now but this year they were hatching a bit later and parents will always protect their young. That’s the same for all species of birds and animals. People may think there are more of them around but, actually, it’s quite the reverse – the numbers are really going down and people who don’t like gulls may soon get what they want.’
Mr Dryden said most of the issues with aggression involved herring gulls, which were more likely to be found in populated areas than the other species of gull commonly seen in Jersey: the lesser black-backed gull and the great black-backed gull.
Staff at the Sunnyside deckchair concession in St Brelade’s Bay saw a young girl in tears on Monday after being attacked by a bird, with the business’s co-owner, Max Linney, saying he sensed the issue had been worse this summer.
He said: ‘I would say there have been more attacks. If we see kids with ice creams or other food, we will warn them as, otherwise, the birds will just swoop down and knock the food out of their hands.
‘They are no better than rats. You can put poison down for rats but there’s nothing you can do about seagulls – which are terrorising people – apart from walk towards them and clap your hands, and that achieves nothing.’
Gary Harbon, who runs the Midbay Café in St Brelade’s Bay, said gull attacks were a perennial problem, caused primarily by customers ignoring signs and warnings from staff about feeding the birds.
‘We do what we can around the café but we can’t police the beach,’ he said. ‘Some people are here on holiday and see it as a novelty to throw sandwiches and crisps in the air for seagulls to catch but, once they’ve attracted one bird, there’ll be 101 there a few seconds later.’
There have also been reports of gulls targeting takeaway food at Havre des Pas and in parks in St Helier, including Parade Gardens and Jardins de la Mer.