Sunday, October 18, 2015

Crows, Seagull Culls and Tree-Like Lampposts

At the start of the year I said I was going to focus this blog more on animals. I haven't really done that though, it's been mainly Flat Earth and the Ball. I do actually have a post about animals today though (:

I feel very British touching on this topic. It seems a very "middle England" thing to talk about. Not very cool or esoteric, but quite important for animal lovers - and for people being regularly pecked by large birds.

It would seem in Britain at present seagulls are becoming, quite frankly, a pain in the arse. They're attacking and harassing people in the streets. Stealing food. Attacking and killing other animals. There have even been reports in the press of seagulls killing family pets. They're kind of the new chavs. It's became such a problem that there is now strong talk of a population cull. Normally I'm aghast at the very suggestion of anything like this, however in this case I had to pause for thought, as even I've had my run-ins with angry urban seagulls.

When asked it would have been nice to have simply said that I'm against culling, but that would have been avoiding the obvious problems we're having with seagulls. Simply saying a cull is wrong isn't much use to someone who's being constantly attacked by what are quite large, aggressive animals. Anyway, the issue has been on my mind over the last few months and after thinking about it I've finally realised what should have been obvious straight away really; that the seagull problem has been caused by the way we have changed the landscape of our country.

Native birds are happy in trees and hedges, however when you watch seagulls inland they tend to loiter on man-made things: lampposts, buildings, chimney pots. Our concrete jungles are inland cliff faces, and by creating this landscape we have essentially invited the seagulls in. What's worse by doing this we have pushed the seagulls natural competitor in size, the crow, out. For example, recently a large tree where crows nest near my home was cut down. The crows are now gone, and seagulls now rule the roost. Tall trees of course are perfect for crows, but totally unsuitable for seagulls, who aren't designed to be flitting about in tree branches. Crows, although large in size, are generally much more well behaved than seagulls too. In fact, compared to seagulls, they're almost our perfect avian neighbour.

Therefore, if we want to rid ourselves of the seagull menace we have to change the landscape. Simply culling a bunch of seagulls would only be a short term, and somewhat cruel, solution. Their numbers would simply rise again after the cull to refill the ecological niche once again. A more intelligent solution is needed. Firstly, we need more trees and hedges - tall trees especially need to be protected and encouraged. It would also be useful if we could introduce changes to architecture and street design that would dissuade seagulls of the merits of town life, and that would maybe encourage other species to take up the occupation. It sounds silly, but even if lampposts were more "tree-like" in their design it would make a huge difference. We'd have starlings instead of seagulls.

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