University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is conducting a seagull study to examine how the birds interact with people

. A group of undergraduate psychology students are currently carrying out a seagull study to study how humans and urban gulls interact. Over a period of months, they will collect and analyze data about seagull nesting locations, human behaviours and the response of humans to these behaviors. There is a rapid increase in urban gull populations in the UK. This has led to more concern from people all over the country. Local authorities are now saying they can’t cope with the noise and aggressive behavior of seagulls. Over the last ten years, there have been many reports of seagull attacks against adults, teens, and pets. So far, ineffective measures Project leader Dr. Chris Pawson from UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, says that most of the gull population control efforts over the last ten years have failed. To be more successful, Dr. Pawson believes we must have a deeper understanding of how protected species behave. The undergraduates and Dr. Pawson, working together with Bath and North East Somerset Council will map data including complaints and other information on complex maps and look for patterns that may explain the behavior of the birds. Human and gull behaviours can often be very similar. Dr. Pawson stated that wildlife behaviour is affected by the environmental pressures around it. These gulls find Bath’s buildings and food very comforting. Which would you prefer to be? On a clifftop somewhere or on a nice, sheltered ledge with food sources?” The typical herringgull can be found both in coastal areas and inland. Their increasing numbers in cities has raised concerns. (Image by rspb.org.uk). Peter Rock is the most respected expert in the Bristol/Bath area on gulls and says that it’s time for a study on their behavior. The Council and Dr. Pawson both hope to help Mr. Rock in his work. What is it that gulls choose certain areas over others? Dr Pawson stated that a census of the gulls is done in Bristol and Bath, but there is not much information about the lives of urban gulls. “We must know how they make their decisions, and what drives them to choose certain areas. These increased data levels may allow us to shape their behavior in new ways. There are many ideas. The current levels of complaints are so high that they are unacceptable for environmental teams and councils. Image: bythedart.co.uk. Residents of Bath will be asked to send data electronically about the seagulls in their city as part of a citizen science project. This will take place in partnership with Middlesex University. Researchers need to increase their access to information. Residents can help the researchers by sharing what they see and where. Dr. Pawson said, “It also means that we can engage the public about scientific research.” Councillor Martin Veal of Bath & North East Somerset Council, who is also the Cabinet Member for Community Services said that this research was parallel to our three-pronged approach in addressing the problem of gulls within the city. This is mutually beneficial research that is free to the Council. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) states that some black-backed and other herring gulls use rooftops for nesting. This is a major factor. In the 1956 Clean Air Act, tip-operators were prohibited from burning their waste. This led to a dramatic increase in organic material available for seagulls. On its website, the RSPB stated that “many urban streets were also often replete with discarded foods and accessible rubbish and some people feed gulls.” The RSPB informed that although the population of red-listed herring gulls continues to decline, it is encouraging the increase in roof-nesting gulls. The population of lesser black-backed geese has declined over recent years. The RSPB wrote that local authorities tried to reduce urban gull populations by either egg-oiling and/or nest destruction. These actions are not effective because urban gull population are on the rise. Even if we give them the food, they will take it from us.

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