Seagulls, the bane of so many seaside resorts, are facing a new threat to their chip-stealing activities. Citizens and town officials in the Belgian resort of Blankenberge have become so tired of their aggressive resident seagulls that they have announced plans to curb the birds’ numbers by putting them on the contraceptive pill. They will achieve this by doping the seagulls’ food although, presumably, this will not include fries, waffles and the like sold by various cafes and takeaways. Instead, plans are afoot to leave out tempting piles of food laced with the pills in areas frequented by seagulls. Broody female birds are to be calmed by the addition of fake eggs to their nests. The measures are necessary because EU law forbids the culling of the birds.
It’s not the first time that prime tourist areas have used contraceptives as a way of dealing with problem birds. Venice has previously used similar tactics with the pigeons in St Mark’s Square, as have the city authorities in Barcelona.
Many UK resorts will be watching with interest. Although contraceptive pills are not currently licensed for use in birds in the UK, this may change if the Belgian experiment is a success. Towns such as Scarborough in Yorkshire experience particular problems from seagulls, with regular reports of the birds dive-bombing tourists. A one-year “disruption and dispersal” programme along the north Yorkshire coast has recently ended. This involved the use of Harris hawks to frighten away resident herring gulls and also the removal of eggs and nests from buildings in the target areas. The forthcoming season will be a good indication of the programme’s success, although signs warning people not to feed seagulls remain in place.