RSPCA warns of gale danger to newborn gulls

One of the rescued gulls
One of the rescued gulls

GUSTY gales have seen the number of baby gulls taken in by a Hastings wildlife centre soar to more than double the usual rate.

RSPCA staff at Mallydams Wood have been inundated with new arrivals over the last fortnight – with 70 newly-hatched birds arriving in need of care.

Experts think the influx is because strong winds have coincided with the birth of the majority of the town’s young birds - resulting in dozens being blown from their nests.

And, with the Hastings-based National Gull Rescue and Protection Charity suspended following a series of raids by the RSPCA, the job of helping the birds back on their feet is falling more than ever on staff at Mallydams.

Wildlife officer Richard Thompson said the strong winds had played havoc with nests and was blowing chicks off roof tops. He said: “Tiny birds like this hatching at the same time as 30mph winds are whirling around the roof tops is really not a good combination. It is a real shame they have had such a shaky start to their lives.”

Most of the birds are doing well and should be strong enough to be released in the next few weeks. However, the rescue centre is not ruling out more and more birds arriving on its doorstep.

Gulls usually nest high up, with common sites being on the roofs of three-storey town houses and industrial buildings. Many raise their young on buildings as high as 30ft - leaving them safe from predators but open to the elements.

Gull chicks begin to hatch in June and usually take from 30 to 35 days to fledge from an egg, meaning many are still in the most vulnerable stage of their development.

Anyone who finds a stricken gull should call either the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999 or Mallydams on 0300 123 0723.

Hastings has long enjoyed a love hate relationship with gulls. Last year hundreds of people flocked to a pro-gull stand in Priory Meadow to pose with Hastings United mascot Leonard the Seagull and the birds are protected by law.

And in the last few months ornithologists celebrated the sighting of a rare Little Gull in 1066 Country and a tagged Hastings bird was spotted thriving in Finland.

But for many locals gulls are an unwanted pest. Local thugs have been arrested after shooting the birds with air rifles and the Observer’s letters basket is often full with correspondence from people asking for a town-wide cull.

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