Gulls Advice

Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gulls are common gulls within West Dunbartonshire and their presence often leads to complaints during the gull breeding season (April to September) each year when they build their  nests on the roofs of houses and businesses within the area rather than on coastal cliffs.

The nuisance from gulls lasts mainly from April to September after which the young gulls fly back out to sea, though some choose to remain within our towns all year round.

Problems Associated with Gulls


Gulls begin mating in April and nest from early May onwards. The raucous mating calls and squabbling can start at sunrise and continue all day.


Gulls can damage property by the disturbance of roof tiles, blocking gutters, gas flues, chimneys, clog drains and ventilation systems. Gull nests can look unsightly and their droppings can accelerate the deterioration of buildings.


Gulls may swoop and dive at anyone who walks in the vicinity of a nesting area or where a young chick has fallen from a nest. This is a natural protective instinct on the part of the parent gulls and can be alarming to some people. Adult gulls very rarely make contact with any persons though. It is mainly a scare tactic on the gulls part.  Also when young gulls start to fly aggression may increase as they squabble over a shortage of food leading to potential swoops on people in an attempt to steal food.

Tackling the Nuisance

It takes four years for a gull to reach maturity and breed with many returning to the nest where they were born. Gulls like to nest in colonies and once a pair gains a foothold others follow. If they breed successfully, they will return year on year and problems will grow rapidly.

There is no quick fix to the problem of nuisance gulls, and control measures need to be kept up for several years to be effective. The key to reducing gull numbers lies in reducing the ability to breed and limiting the supply of food. Gulls pair and mate for life unless they fail to rear chicks whereby they will seek a new mate.

Action needs to be considered early in the year as once the chicks have hatched it is too late to take action.

Although gulls are protected by law, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing that can be done when such problems arise. Where gulls are causing or anticipated to cause an issue, it is important to be proactive by acting quickly to minimise the risk posed and to reduce the likelihood of it becoming a long-term problem.

NatureScot has developed gull management guidance ( which provides details on the various options for managing gull problems and how these should be implemented in order to be effective. They recommend that councils, businesses and the general public be pro-active and use this guidance to prevent and deter gulls from accessing or nesting in problem areas. Particular effort should be made pre-nesting and in the early breeding season (April). They also advise that a professional pest controller is used to help develop an effective gull management plan. They have also created a gull identification and annual cycle guide which may be of use:

The Law

All wild birds, including gulls, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This makes it an offence to destroy gull nests which are in use or being built, take or destroy gull eggs, or take or kill gull adults and chicks. Furthermore, all five gull species which breed in Scotland are of conservation concern on the Birds of Conservation Concern 5 (BoCC5):

Although it may seem like gull populations are doing well due to concentrated presence in urban areas there is evidence of wider decline in overall populations.

Environmental Health have no statutory duties or powers to take action against gulls.  Only an owner or occupier can take action against gulls nesting on buildings, but owners/occupiers can give someone else permission to act on their behalf.

The use of poisons to take or kill any bird is specifically prohibited, except under very special circumstances and with a government licence.  Action must be humane and should only be used where scaring and proofing is either ineffective or impracticable and the method being used should not cause suffering.

Licences For Gull Control Work

Licensed gull management for actions that would otherwise be an offence is a last resort and is only permitted after all other methods of prevention and deterrence have been tried or considered, but are not entirely successful or feasible.

NatureScot is the lead public body responsible for advising Scottish Ministers on all matters relating to the natural heritage and to help people enjoy nature responsibly. Part of that role includes facilitating licensed gull management where necessary, such as gull nest and egg removal.

Gulls were removed from NatureScot’s suite of General Licences on 1st April 2020 and as such individual licences must now be applied for and assessed by NatureScot. They have launched an online gull licence application process for gull public health or safety licences.

Details on how to apply using the online application can be found on their  website:

NatureScot are advising that the licence holder should be the person that has the authority to make changes to the fabric of the building (e.g. attach spikes or nets to the roof). This is because the licence holder is responsible for ensuring the licence conditions are met, including any requirements to implement preventative measures such as spikes or netting, and liable to criminal proceedings if not. The licence holder should therefore be the owner, occupier or tenant of the property, as opposed to a pest controller. The licence holder can still appoint someone else (e.g. a pest controller or roofing company) to carry out the works, or to apply for the licence on their behalf with the licence holder approving the application before it is submitted to NatureScot.

How Can You Help

Do not feed gulls or drop food scraps as gulls are scavengers and discarded food encourages the gulls to stay within close proximity to the source.

Things You Can Do

  • Do not drop litter or food scraps as this is an offence and you may be liable to a penalty.
  • Be a good neighbour and don’t attract gulls to your garden by feeding them. While the wish to help wildlife is understandable, this is not in the bird’s best interest. Their natural diet is based on shellfish and other small sea creatures, bird’s eggs, insects and earthworms.
  • Too much human food is not good for them, and when fed regularly they expect everyone to do the same.
  • Property owners can discourage gulls from nesting by erecting deterrent devices on chimney heads and flat roof areas. Deterrent methods include: - Fitting long spikes to places like chimney stacks - Fitting short spikes to dormer roofs - Fitting wires or nets to prevent gulls landing - Disturbance of nests, including removal of nests and eggs.
  • If gulls nest on your property, you can arrange for eggs to be pierced or oiled to prevent hatching, or have them removed and replaced with imitation eggs. The nests will then have to be checked every three weeks between early May and the end of June to ensure no new eggs have been laid.

Safety First 

 It is strongly recommended that you take advice from specialist companies before undertaking any nest removal or egg oiling or piercing. Ideally the works should be carried out by an experienced competent contractor who use fixtures specific for use on roofs which don’t constitute a safety or fire risk.