SEAGULLS are as much a part of seaside life as kiss me quick hats, hordes of invading cockneys on Bank Holidays and fish and chips.
But, according to a local wildlife centre, the relationship between some locals and their feathered neighbours is far from a love affair.
In fact, with breeding season fast approaching, staff at the RSPCA’s Mallydams Wood rescue centre are anticipating a surge in gull attacks.
According to wildlife officer Richard Thompson, injured gulls account for almost half of all animals the centre sees during that time.
And with local gulls already in the midst of frantic nest building, the animal lover is anticipating intolerant locals to once again target noisy birds.
The centre has already taken in its first casualties of the year, including birds shot by air rifle-wielding thugs (x-ray pictured).
Mr Thompson is now encouraging locals to take a less confrontational way of living alongside the birds.
“We encourage people not to take the law into their own hands, but seek advice about humane deterrents, or accept that gulls are part of coastal life,” he told the Observer.
“It is illegal to kill them, their chicks or disturb their nests and eggs.” And a spokesman for Mallydams Wood added: “The summer tourist season corresponds to the gull breeding season and, with increased availability of food for example discarded chips, human interaction with these birds also increases.
“They are hungry and have chicks to feed, so may behave aggressively to acquire food and protect their young.
“The way to discourage gulls is not to feed them scraps in public places. Tolerance and understanding can help us coexist with this beautiful bird which has come to be seen as the symbol of our coastal heritage.
“What would a seaside town be without the gull soaring overhead and around the cliffs or bopping up and down on the waves?”
It is a sentiment often echoed by Tim McKenzie, a volunteer who runs the locally-based National Gull Rescue service which answers call-outs to stricken birds.
Mr McKenzie, who fell in love with gulls as a child, has campaigned long and hard to get locals to learn to love the seagulls.
Anyone finding an injured or orphaned gull should call either RSPCA Mallydams on 0300 123 8350 or the Gull Rescue Hotline on 07765 114599.