Why you should never feed the Whitby seagulls!
With the spring and summer fast approaching there will be many of us flocking, pardon the pun, to the beautiful coastal town of Whitby. We will wander the quaint and ancient streets, shopping in Whitby’s unique stores, and laze on the beach eating ice cream, doughnuts and freshly caught fish and chips; yummy!
There is, however, a problem with all this, and it comes in the shape of a rather large feathered friend, or foe, the seagull. They are everywhere you look in Whitby, watching you and waiting for you to throw them some of your tasty seaside fayre.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve been tempted to throw these magnificent seabirds a crumb or two. After all what harm can it do? Well, actually, it causes quite a bit of trouble, and for this reason we are being asked not to do it. To explain a bit further here are seven reasons why it’s not a good idea to feed Whitby’s seagulls.
1. An Unhealthy Dependance On Humans For Food
It’s human nature that where we are offered an easy option we’ll take it, and therefore it should come as no surprise that seagulls will too. Hence, the more we feed them, the more they’ll eat it, and the more they’ll become dependant upon us and our diet.
This may not seem like the end of the world, after all with the constant supply of seaside goodies, the seagull certainly isn’t going to starve. However, when you consider the types of food we eat at the seaside, and how bad they are for us, it stands to reason that they are not going to be healthy for a seagull either.
Eating a natural diet of fish, marine invertebrates, insects, seeds, and fruits gives a seagull all the nutrients they need to survive. Doughnuts, fish and chips, ice cream, and candy floss, on the other hand, do not! Ironically, this lack of nutrients they receive from human foods only makes them beg even more to make up for the nutrients they are lacking, leading them to be even more dependant upon us.
2. No Room At The Inn!
By feeding seagulls, we attract them to urban areas that they would not naturally inhabit. In turn this means that they have to find new places to nest that aren’t cliff faces or, in some cases trees. Usually, and unfortunately for us, the urban nesting site of choice is our roofs!
Having nesting seagulls on your roof can be an expensive problem that proves to be extremely disruptive if not dealt with quickly. Parents are protective of their young and will swoop and attack anyone they see as a threat. That’s not to mention the noise from their squawks, mess from their poop, and the fact that they may return to nesting sites year after year.
3. Stop… Food Thief!
Over time the seagulls of Whitby have lost all their fear of humans and see them purely as a food source. This, in turn, has transformed them into a menace that will stop at nothing to get food, including attacking adults, children, and other animals. This is especially true when seagulls are in a pack, like in Whitby, as it is then they become extra aggressive.
In the seagull's defence it is not that they are being vicious, rather they are trying to feed and survive. Also, a seagull cannot differentiate between a human offering them food, and people that are just trying to eat theirs in peace. I have personal experience in this, if you’d like an example, I lost my ice cream to a hungry seagull!
4. Too Many Seagulls At The Seaside
Seagulls are not stupid, in fact, they are quite intelligent and it didn’t take them long to realise they were on to a good thing in Whitby. The good thing in this case being a good and constant supply of food. This has led them to flock there in large numbers creating a huge population.
It is not, however, only the population of seagulls in Whitby now that is of concern. Large numbers of them leads to a vast amount of breeding increasing the population to even more.
5. A Risk Of Disease
Seagull faeces, as with any animal poop, carries a large range of diseases that can lead to illness, and with the increased number of seagulls, this could be a worry. You only have to look around the buildings and public areas in Whitby to see the increased amount of seagull defecation which brings with it the potential of disease.
Furthermore, areas with large seagull populations, are also at risk of pests who are attracted by them. Rats and mice, for example, are attracted by scraps seagulls leave behind, bringing a whole new range of health hazards and risks with them.
6. A Risk To Seagulls Themselves
So far we have mainly concentrated on the negative effects of seagulls on humans visiting Whitby. However, we also need to realise that our feeding them can be harmful to the birds themselves too. This is because many of the foods that we are feeding seagulls contain ingredients that to them are toxic.
As an example, chocolate which seagulls, and me for that matter, have a hard time resisting can even in tiny amounts be toxic. It has been found to cause diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, tremors, seizures, and even death to these magnificent birds. Other toxic foods include caffeine, fats, and salt.
7. A Negative Effect On Tourism
It may seem like a bit of a dramatic statement to say that the seagulls of Whitby may be having a negative effect on tourism. However, with around fifty seagull attacks being reported every year, and probably many more not, it has become a real problem, and one that Whitby councillors are trying to address with campaigns. These include putting ‘do not feed the seagulls’ billboards around the harbour and piers and talks about introducing fines for those who continue to feed the gulls.
Have you ever had your food stolen or been attacked by a seagull in Whitby? If so, please share your story below in the comments.