With the city reopening in the next coming weeks here are some key points to consider to protect consumers and support reducing gull interference, with briefing notes taken from the Worcester Gull Forum meeting on 25/02/2021 by Gordon Dugan (Technical Officer (Gull Control – Worcester)).


1          Changes in gull behaviour and issues with gulls over the winter.

(a) A significant number of reports have been received from across the city about the unusually early return of the nesting gulls in large numbers. They appear to be marking out and defending their territories/nesting sites from rivals.


2          Gull control licences from Natural England.

(a) Once a nest has been occupied, a licence is required for gull management such as the removal of nests and eggs. A clear case of a tangible threat to public health or public safety must be made for a licence to be issued; nuisance alone is insufficient. Natural England must achieve a balance between the competing demands of the public and the conservation of the two gull species.

(b) Following discussions between WRS and Natural England over the winter and since the initial licence applications were made for Worcester two weeks ago, the two organisations have this week entered into negotiations for the issue of an organisation licence for the city. In this, WRS on behalf of Worcester City Council would be granted a type of delegated licensing authority by Natural England; this is a pilot scheme in which only one other local authority (Bath) is taking part.

(c) Within a defined area – probably all or most of the city – WRS would be able to grant authority to their own staff and contractors, and to property owners and their contractors to take licensable gull management action. WRS would be responsible for the decision to take action, for legal and regulatory compliance and regular reports would have to be made to Natural England. The onus would be placed on WRS to ensure that any actions taken could be justified as compelling public health and safety risks. The ‘organisation’ licence could be in place from 1 April this year.

(d) The key merits of the ‘organisation’ licence are:

  • major cost and time savings over applying for individual site licences as in 2020;
  • speed of action – a decision can be made immediately with earlier resolution of issues;
  • greater certainty when planning gull control operations in advance and allocating funds;
  • Worcester City Council/WRS gaining an enhanced overview of gull issues across the city and of licensable actions taken by property owners and their contractors.


3          Deterrent hawking.

(a) Following the positive results of the trial in the Britannia Square area last year, the scheme is being transferred to specific properties along the road axes of The Tything, Foregate St, High St, Copenhagen St, Fish St, Severn St and Mill St. An outlier site in Weir Lane, Lower Wick will also be included.

(b) Purpose: to complement licensed nest interventions in displacing gulls from specific nesting sites where problems have been reported through non-lethal means.

(c) Key features:

  • intensive hawking phase – four days per week Monday 29 March to Friday 23 April 2021 (eight hours per day on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays);
  • reduced intensity phase – two days per week Monday 26 April to Friday 21 May (eight hours per day on random working days at the discretion of the hawker);
  • dogs on leads with the hawker to enhance the deterrent effect – experimental activity;
  • fund-matched between the Council and specific property owners;
  • adjustment of dates may be necessary to account for the early return of the gulls this year – possibly bringing the programme forward by one week.


4          Nest and egg removal by MEWP (cherry picker) on private land/off road deployment

(a) Two MEWPs with highly accomplished operators (Fletcher Access) have been booked for four rounds of nest and egg removal on 4 May, 24 May, 14 June and 5 July (21-day intervals; laying to hatching c. 27 days).

(b) The two MEWPS are of different sizes and so will permit maximum flexibility in gaining access to different premises. Efficiency and reach will be enhanced by the use of drag tools and cameras fitted to long telescopic poles with reaches of 40 to 52 feet.

(c) Sites visited in 2020 will be included in the programme; there are also new sites in Barbourne, Diglis and St Johns.

(d) Licence-permitting, the intention is to displace the gulls from these sensitive locations where human-gull interactions are causing health and safety concerns. This may take several years of such action. With no chicks to defend, things should be quieter.

(e) The identified key weaknesses are: the gulls could displace elsewhere nearby where access may be difficult or in new locations in Worcester and cause issues there; the programme ends in early July so some birds could still lay afterwards. However, a balance between resources and efficacy must be reached. The programme remains experimental; monitoring will take place and adjustments made in the light of the gulls’ reactions and within the available resource base.


5          Nest and egg removal by MEWP operating from the street in the city centre

(a) One large 28-metre MEWP has been booked with street permits and traffic management for deployment on streets in the city centre for eight hours on the following Sundays: 2 May, 23 May, 13 June and 4 July.

(b) A programme of nest and egg removal will take place from as many nest sites in the main city centre streets as we can gain access to within the time frames set. Key areas of operation: Foregate, High and Broad Streets; The Shambles.

(c) When the licence is in place, WRS will engage with site owners in arranging access.

(d) This resource may also be deployed just outside the city centre at Studdart Kennedy House, Spring Gardens, if possible.


6          Nest and egg removal from roofs in the city centre where there is safe internal access

(a) Nest and egg removal will also take place by internal access using a new contractor this year. This will operate in tandem with the same work by MEWP.

(b) Eight- hour days have been booked on 30 April, 21 May, 11 June and 2 July.

(c) Once the licence is in place WRS will re-negotiate access to the premises on the traditional round visited by Red Kite for egg replacement; new properties will also be found.


7          Nest and egg removal by MEWP at an industrial site in Lower Wick

(a) A fund-matching agreement has been reached between the City Council and the owners of an industrial site in Weir Lane, Lower Wick where a significant and troublesome nest cluster exists.

(b) A programme of pre-season nest clearance and then deterrence by daily human presence has been agreed and is currently being enacted. Hawking will also take place on site. Subject to the licence being granted, nest and egg removal visits by MEWP will take place on 5 May, 26 May, 16 June and 7 July.

(c) Due to the fairly compact nature of this site, it is hoped that a determined and sustained effort over several years will permanently disperse the gulls from this site which lies alongside residential properties.


8          Red roof nesting deterrent experiment

(a) Observational, but non-substantiated evidence exists that gulls appear, at least temporarily, to be averse to landing and nesting on red and shiny surfaces. The gull specialist Peter Rock, and Dr Dave Parrott of the Animal and Plant Health Agency believe this potential deterrent is worth investigating in a scientific way. Dr John Coulson, formerly of Durham University and adviser to Scottish councils on gull control, has observed that gulls do not like shiny surfaces; this is perhaps a reason why The Hive appears to be gull-free.

(b) A small number of test sites have been selected this year. They are all on flat, accessible roofs where gulls have been nesting. After removal of last year’s nests, a 1m2 area around the established nest site will be sprayed bright red with an acrylic paint. The behaviour of the gulls will then be monitored. Following this pilot test, a full scientific methodology developed by the Ecology Department of the University of Worcester will then be used in a more extensive trial.

(c) A similar test of the effectiveness of shiny surfaces as a gull deterrent will take place next year.


9          Recovery and rehabilitation of gull chicks

(a) We have a contractor in place to recover gull chicks from safely accessible places anywhere in Worcester where the chick presents an animal welfare concern. This action will take place under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

(b) Any recovered gull chicks will be taken to a wildlife hospital from which they will ultimately be released into the wild, but in a rural coastal setting. Prior to release they will be ringed for subsequent monitoring by Peter Rock and the network of British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) observers. This will provide additional data on inter-colony and other movements by the birds.

(c) Should WRS have to arrange for the removal of the chicks of particularly aggressive parent gulls anywhere in the city this year, the removed chicks will be rehabilitated in the same way as those recovered for animal welfare reasons. This represents a non-controversial and ethical resolution.

(d) Worcester City Council is sponsoring a gull aviary at the wildlife hospital as part of the agreement. Recovered chicks from elsewhere will also be ringed and included within our research programme into the movements of gull chicks as a way of better informing our future gull management decisions.


10        Ongoing research into gull behaviour

(a) Several projects continue, including Peter Rock/BTO ringing a further batch of gull chicks from accessible roofs in Worcester in June where control has not taken place.

(b) WRS is awaiting the results of a literature search on gull control methods and technologies worldwide from third-year BSc Ecology students at the University of Worcester. The results of this will then be considered and further research commissioned in consultation with Dr John Dutton of the University.

(c) WRS will make a bid to Worcester City Council to commission a further gull population survey by Peter Rock in 2022. This may be an essential requirement of the ‘organisation’ licence currently being negotiated with Natural England. This 2022 survey would allow proper scrutiny and assessment of our gull management programme, including the gull displacement effects of our work this year; the ‘benchmark’ would be the 2020 survey.  


11        Reacting to complaints and issuing advice

The WRS gull officer for the City of Worcester will continue to respond to complaints and issue advice as promptly as possible. This will be facilitated by the use of a 52-foot bespoke, extendable carbon fibre pole on which both a camera can be mounted and a drag tool for the removal of gull nests where it is deemed appropriate. It is hoped that providing there is compelling evidence of a real public health and/or public safety issue at specific premises, and authorised by the new ‘organisation’ licence, the gull officer will be able to take immediate action in cases (where access is possible).


12        City centre Public Space Protection Order prohibiting the deliberate feeding of gulls

(a) This will come into force this year for a defined area of the city centre and the banks of the Severn. Uniformed Council enforcement officers will be able to take action against persistent offenders or those who ignore initial warnings.

(b) The Council’s Community Engagement Team has prepared a series of posters and signs to inform people of the Order in the affected area.

(c) In addition to reducing the easy availability of food for gulls, the Order and its publicity launch campaign and signage will increase public awareness of the gull issue – definitely a positive!


13        Drafting planning advice requiring the ‘designing-out’ of nesting opportunities for gulls

(a) WRS will liaise with planning officers over the drafting of building development guidelines intended to promote the incorporation of gull nesting and roosting prevention measures into the designs of new buildings and altered buildings where planning permission is required.


If you require further help, or a Gull Sack, please contact Worcester BID with the subject “Gull Sack”.