Complaints about pesky seagulls dive-bombing people have doubled since their nests became protected, it has been revealed.
A report by The Sunday Times showed that in the last five years since the rules came in to protect nests and eggs attacks have risen from 544 in 2016 to 956 in 2020 and 1,075 in 2021.
One pub in Exeter, Devon, claims it has been terrorised by seagulls forcing it to install their own shrieking alarm to deter the nuisance birds.
The Wetherspoons pub has been experimenting in a bid to prevent the birds from harassing drinkers in their beer garden.
The Imperial has implemented various tools over the years to deal with their unwarranted visitors, including a peregrine falcon.
Gary, a front of house member of staff, said: “It is a big problem here – an absolute nightmare.”
A year ago, the pub purchased a peregrine falcon from local pest controllers – which they would allow to roam free around the grounds to scare off the gulls.
Gary admitted the success of Dev the falcon was a “great surprise” and the pub have been endorsing this unique solution for over a year now.
He said: “When the hawk is visible, the gulls won’t come anywhere near the pub – it’s crazy.
“When he’s here, the reaction is unbelievable, they just completely scarper – they are petrified of this little falcon.”
However, due to restrictions the feisty falcon only makes an appearance once a month now – previously once a fortnight – which is what sparked the pub’s decision to install a shrieking siren at the top of their building.
Gary said despite spending a lot of money on hawking the siren is only partly successful in deterring the ravenous pests from pub punters.
He admitted: “We have a big outdoors area with 700 covers, so it’s a big space and we cannot monitor all of it.
“When these gulls are hungry, nothing is going to stop them.
“Also, it is their feeding season – and these birds will stop at nothing to feed their young.”
Gary added: “Luckily people here are very understanding and we haven’t had any severe cases of seagulls snatching people’s food.
“But we’ve got to be really quick clearing the tables.”
The date from The Sunday Times showed most incidents involved mess and noise complaints, but one in four councils highlighted physical attacks by gulls on people or pets.
Councils were once able to employ “lethal control” of herring gulls as part of their wider permission to restrict the numbers of problem birds.
But in 2019 after campaigning from conservationists, gulls were removed from the general licence and councils required to apply on a case by case basis.
In response to criticism, last year Natural England rolled out trial “organisational” licences with councils in Worcester and Bath and North East Somerset, which were designed to provide more latitude, but both councils said they still had to seek permission almost every time they wanted to act.
Tim Ball, a councillor for Bath and North East Somerset, said in April: “Only in extreme circumstances can you remove eggs now. We’ve had gulls swooping on people, on children.”
In a report at the time Worcester Council said the system was “not fit for purpose, and wasteful of public funds”.
Steph Bird-Halton, of Natural England, said: “There have been declines in populations of some gull species. We are rolling out licences which will allow authorities to take action through nest and egg destruction.”