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Herring gull protection and monitoring

Eco Active
Seagulls flying

A herring gull is a large gull and can measure up to 66cm long.

Jersey is home to numerous breeds of gulls but by far the most common is the herring gull. Herring gulls are large and noisy gulls found throughout the year around our coasts. They are increasingly found foraging for scraps in built-up areas, around rubbish tips and by fast food outlets.

The bird is protected under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000. This also means that the removal of Herring Gull eggs and / or nests can only be carried out by those licensed to do so.

Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000 on Jersey Law website
Download herring gulls leaflet (size 80kb)

What do herring gulls look like?

The adults have light grey backs, white under parts, and black wing tips with white 'mirrors'. Their legs are pink, with webbed feet and they have heavy, slightly hooked bills marked with a red spot. Young birds are mottled brown.

How big do herring gulls get?

The adult bird can weigh over a kilogram and have a wing span of 5 feet.

Herring gull breeding

  • breeding pairs court in March and commence nest building from early April onwards
  • eggs are laid from April to May onwards with 2 or 3 being the usual number. The eggs take about 3 to 4 weeks to hatch so the first chicks are generally seen about the beginning of June
  • chicks generally fledge in August and then take 3 or 4 years to reach maturity and breed
  • gulls will tend to return to the same nesting site and, unless action is taken to proof a building, problems associated with these birds may recur annually
  • parent birds protecting fallen chicks are the ones which dive and swoop on people and animals

Problems caused by herring gulls

The herring gull is being referred to more and more as a nuisance. This is due to their raucous noise, mess and the protective reaction of swoop diving by the adult birds.

Mike Stentiford, a leading ornithologist in Jersey, believes that we can combat the problem using a natural and harmless method. Do not feed them and they will return to their natural habitat - the coastline of Jersey. Not feeding them for a sustained period should reduce the urban herring gull population to more acceptable numbers through a natural process.

Why we shouldn't feed herring gulls

Gulls select a rooftop for nesting because of the availability of food which, in many cases, is regularly provided by kind but sadly misguided bird lovers. Herring gulls do not need to be fed by us. They constantly find a wide variety of food, including the eggs and chicks of other gulls, shellfish from the beach, worms from ploughed fields plus all kinds of road kill - especially rats and rabbits. However, if food is put out, they will eat that as it is easier than foraging for natural sources of food.

Because of the noise, the mess and the bird’s aggressiveness, gulls can cause a huge amount of distress and upset to nearby residents. Feeding nesting gulls in a residential area invariably means that controllers have to be brought in to deal with a situation that frequently results in the death of the chicks, distress to the parent birds and undoubted anguish to us.

During each summer, many gull chicks have to be taken away from their parents who, because of the availability of food scraps, have been encouraged to build their nest on a convenient rooftop. Seeing this happen can be quite heartbreaking, as the parent birds fly around for hours afterwards in an obvious state of confusion.

By not receiving scraps of food, herring gulls will eventually abandon their roof-nesting habits and return to their natural habitat – the sea-cliffs and headlands of Jersey’s coastline.

Download save our seagulls by not feeding them leaflet (size 17kb) ​​

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