Swooping seagulls leave public cowering

IT is that time of the year when people are left cowering in the street as territorial squawking seagulls swoop down to fend off loiterers.

RUN for cover - there's a new threat from above terrorising Ipswich.

Yes, it's that time of the year when people are left cowering in the street as territorial squawking seagulls swoop down to fend off loiterers.

And Swoopy - as this particularly territorial gull has been named - is leading the charge of the gulls.

Not dissimilar to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 psychodrama The Birds, Swoopy and his fellow black-backed gulls have been known to attack any intruders on their patch.

The ultra-aggressive gull and two of his flock are guarding an area near the roof of The Evening Star's offices in Lower Brook Street - and there have been reports of them swooping on unsuspecting workers in the car park.

Elsewhere in the town, shoppers have been forced to duck as gulls fly dangerously close and congregate around places where food scraps are left.

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One Star employee said: “I was going outside to my car and a gull came right towards me within inches of my head.

“I thought it was going to hit me, but fortunately it didn't. There are a few of them near the roof making lots of noise so I presume they are protecting a nest.”

RSPB Minsmere's marketing and publicity officer, Ian Barthorpe, said: “It is territorial - we get this every year.

“They are nesting on the roofs. Right now, the young are getting ready to fly the nest so the birds are protecting them.

“This is a subject that we get a lot of phone calls about but unfortunately there is nothing we can do to stop them behaving like this.

“People need to be a bit more careful and walk away from the situation.

“They occasionally make contact but it is not something that happens on a regular basis. It is just the fact that these are big birds and when they swoop down, it is enough to scare most people.”

Portworkers at Felixstowe had a similar problem with the ferocious birds in 2005.

People in the town fought them off with sticks, umbrellas and even car aerials in a bid to defend themselves.

The black-backed gulls, which can have a wing span of up to five feet, and the common seaside herring gull were nesting over the port, yet since nets have been put up, they have not reported any further problems.

Though a gull's natural nesting site is on sea cliffs, their perfect setting in town centres are on flat-roof buildings.

The fledging period, during which the birds are slightly more aggressive, usually lasts a month.

Is your home or business being terrorised by a gull? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

A fear of birds is called Ornithophobia. Therapists claim that clinical hypnotherapy can help to treat this phobia.

The UK has 20,000 breeding pairs of black-backed gulls, each laying two to three eggs per nesting season.

Black-backed gulls live around 20 years and are 64 to 78cm in length with a wingspan of 150 to 165cm and weigh between 1kg and 2kg.

They breed on coastal islands, cliffs, salt marshes, freshwater lakes and moor land near the coast. They will also use buildings to breed.

As well as congregating around the coast, they also gather by rubbish tips inland, sewage outlets and harbours.