What to do when you find a baby seagull

I’m going to cover two topics here, what to do about baby seagulls nesting on your roof and what to do if you find a baby seagull wandering around.

Can you hear that high pitch whistle? Needy and nonstop. That is the sound of a baby seagull.

They sound quite different to the loud squawking of adult herring gulls. Baby seagulls will call to its parents for food. Very young baby seagulls will stay within its nest but as they get older, they will start to move around a lot more. Occasionally, you will find baby seagulls walking around on their own.  You may also find that seagulls nest on rooftops a lot or you may find seagulls nesting on your roof! To read some facts on seagulls and their babies, you can visit my post. I’m going to cover two topics here, what to do about baby seagulls nesting on your roof and what to do if you find a baby seagull wandering around.

I found a baby seagull living on my roof!

Baby Seagull by 1Lane Photography, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by 1Lane Photography
With the reduction of cliffs and natural coastline, seagulls have had to adapt to urban living. Rooftops have replaced cliffs. Herring gulls are now on the Amber Conservation Status list, which means that their numbers have declined in the recent years. They seem numerous but even gulls are protected by the Countryside and Wildlife Act during their nesting season.

So, even though they are noisy and messy but you can’t just remove a baby seagull living on your roof. Unless there is a serious health risk, it is illegal to disturb a bird nest. Your main option would be to prevent a nest from happening in the first place. Removing a half complete nest will not mean that seagulls won’t nest on there later. They may come back and build a new one. You can try proofing your property. Councils can not do this for you but they do offer advice, such as on this page.

Unless the baby seagull falls off, you should leave the baby well alone. In the case that a baby seagull has fallen off the roof, you should see the next point.

What do I do if I find a baby seagull wandering around?

First, consider the age of the bird. Juvenile adults that are newly independent may call like baby seagulls as they still want to be fed by their parents. You will recognise them by their being slightly smaller than adult seagulls, have darker beaks and feathers that are splotchy grey and white. They can fly and they are capable of looking for food. Where I live, most will join with other young seagulls in what I fondly call the ‘nursery’. We see bands of young seagulls at the beach, congregating together.

What to do when you find a baby seagull

If you find a baby seagull that is a lot smaller than an adult seagull, you are likely dealing with a dependent baby seagull. In most cases, proceed with caution. Adult seagulls are very protective of their young and you may find yourself attacked if you are not careful.

First, look around. Do you see the parents? If you can, your options may be very limited. Chances are, it would be difficult to go near a baby seagull in the presence of it’s parents. Parents will actively dive towards you, squawking their displeasure. Beaks, claws and wings may be used in an attack. Or they might poop on you and vomit up their last meal as a form of defense. Unless the baby gull is injured (and you should contact the RSPCA in such an event), I would suggest leaving it alone. The parents know where it is. However, if it looks really small and parents are unable to get it back in the nest, you can either wait till the parents are not around and pop it back in or ask the RSPCA for advice.

If the parents are absent, you may return the baby seagull to it’s nest. Very young baby seagulls are very reliant on parent’s body warmth.

Usually you can tell whether the baby is a seagull chick or not by looking up some photos. But if you want to ID other gulls as well as expand your bird knowledge, I recommend the book Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America which is an award-winning birdwatch book. In my opinion, this is the best gulls ID book I have read to date.

If you are interested in birds, I would also recommend the RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds. It features all the common birds you can find in Britain. I always have birds coming into my garden and this book has helped me a lot to identify them.

How to return a baby seagull to it’s nest

In most scenarios, the baby seagull would have fallen off a roof where it was nesting. You will need to track down the right nest. Be confident that the nest and the baby seagull match.

Pick up the baby seagull wearing gloves that do not smell of anything else. Briefly check for injuries. An injured baby seagull is one for the RSPCA or local wildlife rehabber.

Using a ladder or whatever method you have to reach the nest, carry the baby and place it in the nest. Do this quickly but carefully, it’s no good if you fall off the roof yourself!

In the case that the roof with the nest is difficult to reach/unsafe to reach, you may place the baby on a nearby roof or garage that is not sloped. Choose one close enough to the nest so the parents will be able to spot it. Be careful not to place the chick too close to another seagulls nest as they may not tolerate its presence and if the baby seagull is very young, make sure its not so exposed that a cat or bird of prey might get it.

If in doubt, seek the RSPCA/local vet/or wildlife rehabber for advice.

I don’t have seagulls nesting where I live. I guess we are grateful for that as I hear nesting gulls can be so noisy. We do get plenty of adult in our neighbourhood at set times of the day. If you have more questions, make sure you check out the baby seagull FAQ here.

Have you had an encounter with a baby seagull or had to put one back in its nest? Share your stories using the comment box below!

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