As Morski/Jurica Gaspar writes, the story of seagulls from Istria tells how adaptable and intelligent some animals are. Rovinj, like the whole of western Istria, has been fighting these birds for years now, especially after the landfills were closed, meaning that the birds literally moved to the cities in search of food, and this is where the problems of the people who live there began. Naive tourists have also been the victims of Rovinj seagulls and their strategic attacks and food theft.
”We came out of the bakery and started walking down the street, and a seagull flew in, past my wife’s back, right between the two of us, and stole her food, all of it! When the bird attacked us, he flew down from the air, as fast and accurate as a rocket! Along the way, he flapped at us with his wings and behaved aggressively,” said Ivica Brusic from Rijeka, who was unpleasantly surprised by the courage of these flying predators. ”We tried to record a second seagull attack… but we didn’t succeed,” added Brusic.
They settle in on the town’s rooftops and make unbearable noises all night
Rovinj city authorities have been struggling with their resident seagull problem for a long time now, and Rovinj seagulls not only attack people, but also pollute the city by dropping litter all around that they’ve been going through in search of food, they leave excrement all over, and they also create intolerable levels of noise, which a Rovinj resident complained about a few months ago:
”The problems with the seagulls begin at about four in the morning, they like to settle on the roofs of buildings. I’m appealing (to the city, to the communal services, to vets, to whoever), on behalf of all of the residents of this red zone, to try to solve the problem with the seagulls that have settled on the roofs of buildings and start making awful noises at four in the morning regularly, disturbing people’s sleep. People need to be able to sleep and then get up and go to work (especially those who work shifts), and at night it’s impossible to sleep because of these birds. The problem is growing every year because more and more of them are flying over and settling here. Please help, this is no longer normal, it’s becoming impossible to sleep. Their natural habitat is the islands and the coast, not buildings. We understand that they’re a protected species, but who will protect us from them?!” a letter addressed to the City of Rovinj reads.
Rovinj responded that they have been participating in seagull population control project for several years now using the only method approved so far – by replacing real eggs with fake ones.
Their natural habitats and food sources are under threat
However, it isn’t only western Istria or other coastal Croatian cities in general that have this problem, it seems the ever-brash seagulls have become a global problem, but it isn’t their fault, but ours. Their cries are most often associated with the sea and the coast, but as their natural homes are under threat, they’re simply moving more and more inland to settle in cities, the BBC wrote about this.
From the seagull’s perspective, our cities, or the roofs of houses, are a series of islands surrounded by steep cliffs. Nesting there brings many benefits to these birds – it helps protect them because fewer predators visit human architecture. There is also often no shortage of food on the streets below the buildings. As a result, urban seagull colonies are growing all over Europe but also elsewhere.
Like many other species that have adopted urban areas as their homes – rats, pigeons, foxes – seagulls have an image problem. The tabloid press in the UK describes seagulls as public enemies because of incidents in which birds bombard pedestrians, either to defend their young or to snatch food straight from the hands of naive tourists, much like Rovinj seagulls. Their relentless noise and the clutter they create provokes anger among the people who are forced to live near them.
When large seagulls begin to nest in urban areas, the size of their colonies inevitably increases. So, what is it that is attracting these birds in increasing numbers to human-dominated places and cities? Should they now be classified as an urban species? Part of the reason for their growing numbers is landfills where garbage isn’t being burned, but instead covered with earth every day. Seagulls quickly take advantage of this source of food. Looking for discarded food in landfills and usually succeeding, they manage to raise more young, more of whom eventually survive. Their population has jumped sharply as a result. With all this, there is another force at play. Industrialised fishing practices meant that their natural food sources were depleted, while their nesting sites were often hampered by human activity.
In recent times, with the rehabilitation of old landfills, but also with the depleted fishing stocks in the sea, seagulls tend to migrate to where they will most easily find food and raise their young, and these locations are typically cities. Practice has shown that the replacement of eggs with fake ones successfully halved their numbers in Porec three years ago, but their problem will continue to be an issue, as long as people continue to disturb their natural habitats.
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