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Protest over rising seagull population

By SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]

Local authority officials have pledged to control the dramatic increase in the nuisance caused by the ever growing numbers of seagulls in Lagos.

Much of the trouble is being caused by local fisherman leaving discarded fish carelessly around the port, as well as residents dumping rubbish in easily accessible locations for the birds.

In a letter to the Algarve Resident, one new resident complained that he was “shocked by the out of control seagull population” .

He said: “I live in the centre of the town, I have a roof terrace and can see many pairs of seagulls with young chicks on neighbours’ roofs.

“A partial solution to the problem would be to substitute imitation eggs in breeding nests in rooftops – a new method that has had a successful trial in the UK.

“These birds always return to successful nests, but a failure would cause them to choose a different site to breed next time,” he concluded.

Most complaints regarding the nesting of seagulls focus on a common species of the bird, known as the Yellow Legged Gull (Larus Michahellis) of which tens of thousands exist throughout the Algarve.

The birds constantly disturb residents with their loud cries and their droppings which foul pavements and motor vehicles.

Gulls typically have harsh wailing or squawking calls.

Most species are ground-nesting carnivores, which will take live food or scavenge opportunistically.

But a bird expert has warned that the Yellow Legged Gull is the main culprit and other species of gulls may need protection.

Nuno Barros, of the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), said: “Seagull populations have been increasing in some points of the country and subsequently upsetting the locals.

“In the last few years there has been an expansion of breeding sites, with birds nesting in rooftops of Algarve coastal cities like Lagos or Portimão, as well as other Portuguese cities such as Porto or Peniche.”

He believes that this expansion is mainly related to the over-abundance of food resources.

Seagulls feed in rubbish bins and on human waste, in addition to cast-offs from the fishing industry.

“So if we have to find a guilty party, it is once again us humans. We reject most of the fish we take from the sea, we do not effectively clean out fishing pots, we dump our rubbish in open places, and we drop our sewage in the sea. All of this represents nutrients for the seagulls, opportunistic and smart feeders that are thriving on our lack of care.”

He added: “There are, however, other species of seagull, such as Audouin’s Gull (Laris Audouinnii), that exist in very small numbers, and in Portugal only breed in Castro Marim and the Ria Formosa. These birds are in need of concrete conservation actions, for their breeding grounds are overloaded with human disturbance in the breeding season. So let’s be careful, not all seagulls are alike.”

An official from the Lagos Câmara said: “A study revealed that the major cause of the increase in number of seagulls was because of the local fishing yard, which was an easy source of food for the gulls.”

They have said that they will be contacting the Institute of Ports and Maritime Transport (IPTM) to make them aware of the need to educate fishermen not to leave fish lying along the Bensafrim stream.