Seagulls have a fearsome reputation for sealing seaside visitors' chips and ice cream. Still, even these rockpool racketeers need a place to sleep and raise their young away from predators and prying eyes. If you're a fan of coastal birds, then their nesting habits may not surprise you, but they are interesting nonetheless. So, let's find out where seagulls nest, shall we?
Cliffs, sand dunes and inaccessible islands are all traditional nesting sites of seagulls. Some herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls have also adopted roofs for nesting. A few gulls species do nest in trees, but most make their nests on the ground or on cliffs.
As we'll learn throughout this article, seagulls have very interesting nesting habits. Particularly 'urban' seagulls, as there aren't too many cliffs for the seagulls of London to nest safely.
The nesting habits of gulls greatly depends on the predators that are in the local area and where they feel safest. If the seagulls feel safe to do so, they will make their nests on sand dunes and lower ground. Some gulls prefer to nest in trees, on buildings and on roofs. So, while cliffs and sand dunes are the more traditional nesting areas, seagulls are adapting their nesting habits to suit the modern environment.
A colony of nesting seagulls
Seagulls, like most other nesting birds, make their nests out of twigs and grass. There may also be the occasional toy they have pinched from a child as they proudly display it outside the arcade after a mighty victory on a grab machine. The nests are relatively small, with a well-constructed cup that is big enough to safely protect 2-4 eggs.
Seagulls usually mate between March and April. And after the sweet, sweet tones of Marvin Gaye have finished, the gulls will begin building their nest.
Eggs are laid in May, so this gives the gulls about a month to find a suitable location and build a solid nest ready for their young. The little gulls are inside their eggs for about three weeks, but they won't leave the nest until they are around six weeks old.
Throughout this period, the parents are close by protecting them, with one of the parents leaving to find a hot dog or chips or find natural food when needed.
Generally speaking, nesting for seagulls begins late-April, early-May, and finishes in the middle of July.
Seagull sitting on their nest
Herring gulls and other inland seagulls will often find a safe roof to make their nests on. Seagulls like to have long ranges of sight to spot danger and rely on each other to see this danger.
Inland seagulls will often nest with other mating gulls to help each other keep an eye out for danger. They also use the same nesting sites each year. So, if you have seagulls on your roof making lots and lots of noise throughout the months of May, June and July, chances are you can look forward to that next year too.
A group of seagulls nesting inland, on the top of a roof
If you try to remove a seagull nest from your roof, for example, chances are you are going to anger the parents, as seagulls only nest during the egg-laying, baby raising season. This means you'll have angry gulls dive-bombing you, shouting at you, and you could get injured.
So, while having seagulls on your roof may be annoying, it isn't worth injuring yourself. Also, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is against the law to destroy, disturb or move an active seagull nest.
Both of the parents will sit on the eggs throughout the gestation period, which is about 30 days. After the chicks hatch, both of the parents will also feed the chicks and get them strong enough to leave the nest, which happens about six weeks after they have hatched. Like many birds, the care and attention of the young is split between both parents.
The nest of a seagull, with three eggs inside
Seagulls like to have long ranges of sight when they nest to spot any danger coming their way from a distance. So, they likely won't use nesting boxes.
Of course, seagulls are one of the craziest characters of the bird world, so there is a chance that a mating couple may investigate a nesting box, but it would be a rare occasion. Also, most nesting boxes are built for much smaller bird species, so seagulls will likely get stuck in a nesting box if they try to use it. Freeing an angry seagull from a nesting box is an image that doesn't bear thinking about too much!
Even though seagulls can be extremely noisy when they are nesting, they like to have peace and quiet, perhaps to listen to their partner's screams! They also like to have a good vantage point to spot any danger coming their way. This is why seagulls like to nest on roofs and cliffs.
If you have a small garden, seagulls likely won't find it too appealing to nest in. If you have a large garden that the seagulls feel safe in, then they may nest in it. If you do see seagulls in your garden throughout the nesting period, chances are they are nesting on your roof or a neighbours roof.
Black-billed Gull with two chicks in the nest
Seagulls lay their eggs in May. 2-4 eggs is normal, and after three weeks, the eggs will hatch. The chicks are very active and grow very quickly, but they often aren't seen until June when they leave the nest.
Seagulls are considered migratory birds. This means they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act was set up in 1918 and makes it illegal to hunt, kill or sell gulls at all times of the year. In terms of nesting gulls, it is also illegal to disturb, destroy or move their nests.
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