Nesting Season Effects on Operations
Gulls are vicious toward intruders during the nesting season. In their natural world, gulls use vegetation to build shallow nests on the ground, mostly grass and twigs. On roofs, they often nest adjacent to parapets or HVAC units for shelter, which can spread disease into the building through intake vents and clog drains along the parapets with feathers, feces and nest debris. Among solar panels, their nesting may prevent technicians from servicing equipment as the gulls become very aggressive toward anyone approaching their nests or their young. Their white feces splats degrade solar power output, requiring more frequent cleaning. Sometimes they strip the caulking from parapet and roof sheathing to enhance their nests, causing leaks. I have seen them strip insulation and sealant from HVAC duct sections, allowing water and ice to get into the ducts. A/C technicians may not work during nesting season because gulls attack them, so if an air conditioning unit needs servicing it will not be operational until July at the earliest. Where nesting is taking place in large numbers, the effect on workers and visitors should not be ignored. As the fledglings begin to experiment with flying, some will fail, fall to the ground injured and slowly die or are killed by other gulls. This is upsetting to most people and can reflect negatively on the company that owns the building. The last thing you need are visits from animal welfare agencies called in by well-meaning workers, visitors or neighbors. If nesting is near traffic, the young gulls are frequently run over, causing a safety hazard as drivers try to avoid them. The most effective way to prevent this problem is to prevent nesting. We, and other bird control companies that specialize in seagulls, know how to do this.
Gulls are among the most intelligent birds. They learn from experience and teach each other, such as signaling that fish are available by flashing their wings in a specific flying pattern over the school. At low tide, they harvest mussels and drop them from heights onto docks, sidewalks, metal or asphalt roofs (creating a noise problem inside) and solar panels (cracking the shells and the panels). You can observe them learning as they increase the height of the drop until they achieve the best shell-break point.
I have seen gulls time their arrival at a solid waste landfill operation to coincide with the trucks arriving, and even staying away on weekends when there is no work going on. At a Yuma, AZ organic spinach farm the gulls arrived every day when the irrigation system was turned on. The water brought earthworms and other insects to the surface of the soil, a bountiful feast for the gulls and a contamination mess for the farmer who had to clean the harvested spinach, fouled with seagull feces, which rendered the crop unfit for the organic label. We eliminated the gull problem, and the agricultural operation regained its organic status. Outsmarting such a smart bird is often challenging, but ultimately our human brains prevailed over their bird brains.
Seagulls commonly engage in “kleptoparasitism”, a fancy word for stealing food, and not just from humans. They follow Oystercatchers, whose strong beaks break open clams and oysters. The gulls then swoop in to grab a tasty meal. I have seen them harass ospreys carrying a fresh catch, until the frustrated osprey finally drops the fish for the gulls to consume. They are cannibals too, killing injured gulls and eating them, especially fledglings.
Gulls Outsmart Most Deterrents
Anthropomorphism, ascribing human characteristics to animals, is a tempting oversimplification (OK, maybe it’s both irresistible and accurate with dogs). However, when you get to know gulls as well as I do, you can’t help but admire their street smarts, their tenacity and courage, and their incredible toughness as they endure the worst kind of weather conditions. They are the mountain men of the bird world. They ignore or quickly habituate to many kinds of deterrent products, like flashers and sprayers, ultra-sonic and conventional noise makers, and they easily discern the difference between a fake owl and a real one. I once found a gull nest built next to a seagull distress call speaker. The adjacent solar panels were covered with white gull feces. The squawking loudspeaker worked perfectly at annoying neighbors, but the gulls ignored it.
We Have Permanent Solutions
The solution to seagull problems often requires a multifaceted approach, a good understanding of what motivates these birds to colonize a variety of facilities, and a plan that transforms a comfortable, safe environment into a location that feels permanently threatening to them. If you don’t get it right, they will adapt. They have been adapting to changing conditions and opportunities for thousands of years, all over our planet. And we humans have made it easier.