Are we overreacting over seagulls attacks in Eastbourne?

Seagulls on Eastbourne promenade. July 4th 2013 E27220P
Seagulls on Eastbourne promenade. July 4th 2013 E27220P

Attacks by seagulls have left people with blood gushing from their heads in Eastbourne and a safety conscious post man has refused to deliver to certain addresses in the town because of the swooping birds.

Some see the gulls as an important part of the seaside and believe people are overreacting but others fear their attacks – with Eastbourne resident Barbara Buza telling the Herald last week that an attack she witnessed in Langney was like a scene out of a Hitchcock movie.

But with a razor sharp beak measuring around two inches, a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres and weighing more than a kilo it seems unsurprising the birds are unpopular with some. They can get up to speeds of around 40mph, resulting in a nasty collision should you be the victim of a territorial or protective gull.

The gulls are at their most dangerous at this time of year, when fledglings have hatched but are not able to fly. The adult birds become protective of their young and will dive bomb people if they feel they are under threat.

If they feel frightened, a gull will make a low repetitive noise to warn the person to keep away, it will then swoop low and close to the person’s head before targeting the threat with droppings. Finally, if the person has not responded to the warnings, the gull will dive bomb which can result in injuries.

When it was revealed in the Herald that a postman was refusing to deliver to certain addresses, Trevor Weeks MBE, from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service, said such attacks were rare.

He explained he always wore a hard hat for gull rescued but said injuries, during his many years of rescuing the birds, had been minimal and never serious.

An RSPCA spokesperson said, “Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to intentionally do anything which causes suffering to wild birds and action can only be taken against them under licence.

“Herring gulls in particular are a species of conservation concern in the UK and research has shown that overall gull populations are actually in decline.”

Despite this, they are thriving in urban environments where they can feat on takeaway scraps – especially in seaside towns such as Eastbourne. There survival rate in built-up areas is 95 per cent and they can live for up to 40 years.