RSPB Scotland's Kirsty Nutt shares five reasons to love herring gulls.

Five reasons I love herring gulls

I know herring gulls are a bit like marmite or maybe even worse as folk tend to really dislike them or at best think they are reasonable. However, in utter contrast to how I feel about marmite, I love herring gulls. 

And I want to try to convince you to love them too or at least dislike them a wee bit less than you maybe currently do. Tall order I know, especially at this time of year, but here goes. These are (just) five of the reasons why I think we should show these gulls a little more love. 

1. I love how they run on the spot trying to mimic rain to encourage worms to the surface to eat. It lifts my spirits every time I see it especially if there are lots of them doing it on the same patch of grass. 

2. Their many calls remind me of childhood summer holidays. Growing up inland, we would always staycation somewhere not too expensive near a beach and be able to enjoy coastal landscapes and wildlife. Now, I live in a city by the sea (Aberdeen) and their calls make me feel connected to the marine world in a special way. I also like that the ones that nest round my way have a call that sounds very similar to my cat so I often find myself opening the back door to let her in then realising she is asleep in one of her beds and it must’ve been a gull. This never fails to bring a smile to my face although that is also partly out of embarrassment for my repeated mistake.  

herring gull flying over water

3. They are audacious and adaptable (aka badass). Sometimes this is full in your face like the ones that have made the news for shoplifting bags of crisps. But I also like when they think they are being sneaky, even though they are rather large, bulky birds which makes it difficult for them to be subtleFor example, when my upstairs neighbour used to have summer BBQs and leave them unattendedgulls often would sidle across the outhouse roof getting closer and closer maybes thinking no-one had noticed them even though we all had and someone would return to the BBQ just as they prepared to strike. I appreciate not everyone wants to lose their lunch to a gull and some encounters can be really quite scary, but I like that they are adaptable enough to survive from making the most out of us human’s filthy ways including dropped carry out and landfill. And that they are cheeky and daring. 

herring gull perched on white wooden railing

4. They are fiercely protective parents. Gulls are willing to take on things they perceive as threats to their young even when those things are much larger than they are like humans. And because gull chicks leave the nest before they can fly, the parents do have protecting to do for a few weeks each year. It can be very frightening to be confronted by an upset gull parent swooping at you to scare you away. However, by not getting too close to young gulls on the ground and holding something above your head as you walk calmly past hopefully incidents can be minimised allowing us instead to marvel at their fierce parenting skills. 

herring gull on water

5. Very few other people like them so they bring out an inherent and heartfelt desire in me to stand up for them. And they need our love or at least our tolerance as herring gulls are in trouble. They are red listed, because non-urban populations have declined by more than half over the last 50 years, meaning they need urgent action to help protect themA greater understanding of urban gull populations, which were last counted in 2002 and are currently being counted again as part of the seabird census, is needed to get the full picture. However, regardless of how we feel about them (and I hope that is at least a wee bit more positive now ), they really do need our help.   


Find out more about all our gulls here.