Registered Charity No. 1228
Registered Charity No. 1228

I've found a baby gull

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. 

Herring gull brooding three young chicks in a nest Herring gull brooding three chicks

Legally protected

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. 

Gull swooping to protect her baby Gull swooping to protect her baby

Swooping gulls

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. 

Gull chick standing on house roof Gull chick on roof

Fallen babies

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. 

Gull chick in grass

Make sure the parents are nearby and see where you put the baby, and be careful not to put it on a roof that another pair of gulls has claimed as their own territory or they may attack him or her. If there is no roof you can put the chick on, you can move them off the road into a safe garden. 

Juvenile gull who is old enough to fly

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. 

Rescued gull chick

When to intervene

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.  

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