The RSPCA is appealing for information and urging tolerance of gulls after a man was seen kicking a herring gull in Hastings.
The man, wearing a blue hoodie and shorts and thought to be around 18 years old, was seen attacking the bird in Castle Street last Monday (April 20).
Witnesses said he kicked it very hard in the chest causing the bird to fly into the air, hit a shop window and fall to the ground.
The bird was confined to a container and the RSPCA was called.
It was taken to a nearby wildlife centre where it was examined by a vet and had to be put to sleep as a result of its injuries to prevent further suffering.
RSPCA inspector Alison Edwards said: “Witnesses saw this poor bird fly up in the air and hit the window with force before falling back to the ground.
“It was a callous and pointlessly cruel way to treat a bird – just kicking him as if he was a football.
“The bird had an injured leg and was clearly suffering.
“Sadly this kind of incident is not as unusual as you would hope and every year we deal with many cases of abusive attacks on these birds.
“We urge people to be tolerant of all wildlife around them.”
Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 under which it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a wild bird, unless under licence.
Herring gulls in particular are a species of conservation concern in the UK and research has shown overall gull populations are in decline.
RSPCA head of wildlife Adam Grogan said: “All it takes is a little care and understanding to minimise any inconvenience caused by gulls – they are normally just behaving in a natural way.
“For instance, you can’t blame them for not knowing the difference between scraps willingly offered and your own bag of chips.
“They are simply wild animals following their instincts to find food.
“They don’t necessarily know that their nest is blocking your gutter and like any protective mother, their swooping is often just a way of keeping their babies safe.
“The RSPCA believes that deterrents and non-lethal methods of control are far better at helping to reduce problems.
“Not feeding the gulls and disposing of rubbish properly is one thing we can all do to prevent gulls from causing a nuisance.
“Blocking off areas where gulls normally nest outside of the breeding season will also help to reduce the problems.”