Love them or hate them, Herring Gulls are part of life on the Isle of Man. Due to their habit of nesting on rooftops, we get hundreds of phone calls about gulls every year.
Gulls and their nests are protected by law (1). If you want to stop them from nesting on your roof, you need to have humane bird-proofing installed before they start to build a nest. Once they are building a nest or raising chicks is is illegal to interfere with them or harm them, even if they are causing a nuisance.
We often get calls from people about gulls swooping at them because they have a chick nearby. Gulls are very good parents and extremely protective of their chicks, and they see humans as a threat - with good reason, as many people are cruel to them. It would be illegal for us to remove the babies just because they or their parents are causing a nuisance. The adult birds will attempt to intimidate you by calling, swooping at you, defecating on you and clipping your head with their feet. They do not have talons and it is very unusual for them to cause any injury (2). Avoid disturbing the birds as much as possible by keeping your pets away and taking another route if possible, or if you must disturb them to get in and out of your house walk swiftly, avoid making eye contact and wear an old coat with a hood or hold an umbrella above your head. If you think you have a genuine, serious health and safety risk caused by nesting gull, contact DEFA for advice.
If a baby gull falls off a roof before they can fly, their parents will continue to feed them and keep predators away. If possible, put them back on the roof or on a nearby low roof such as a garage roof. This will keep the baby out of the way of hazards such as dogs and cars.
The parents will not abandon them if you touch the chick, but they may swoop at you so we don’t recommend climbing a ladder to return the baby to a roof in case the swooping parents distract you and cause you to fall.
Learning to fly
As the baby gulls grow up and develop proper feathers instead of baby fluff, they start flapping exercises in preparation for flight. When their flight feathers have grown long enough to cross over on their back, they are capable of flying. Their first real flight (“maiden flight”) often ends with a crash landing and the youngster may be reluctant to take off again. Within a day or two hunger normally encourages them to take off again in search of their parents.
When a chick is sick, injured or abandoned, they will need help. Gulls only feed their chicks every few hours, so don't be too quick to conclude that one has been abandoned because you haven't seen their parents for a while. Contact us for advice if you think a chick needs help. We will not and legally can not remove gull chicks simply because they or their parents are causing a nuisance, so please do not ask us unless a chick is sick, injured, genuinely orphaned or in immediate danger.
1. Manx government, DEFA, “Conflict between birds and human activities”. Accessed 01/02/2019. Link:
2. Manx government, DEFA, “Wildlife and Biodiversity FAQs”. Accessed 30/01/2019. Link: