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Nuisance Gulls

What Are Nuisance Gulls?

Gulls, including ring-billed, herring, and great black-backed gull, are a valuable natural resource native to New York State. They provide important recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers and the general public. Major breeding colonies of these three species are located on the Niagara River, St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Oneida Lake, as well as along the Atlantic Coast of New York. At times, large numbers of gulls (primarily ring-billed, herring, and great black-backed gulls) create property damage and health concerns.

Attraction to Landfills

Large numbers of ring-billed, herring, and great black-backed gulls are attracted to landfills as a food source. Landfills often serve as foraging and loafing areas for gulls throughout the year. They attract larger populations during migration periods. Bird conflicts associated with landfills include accumulation of feces on equipment and buildings, distraction of heavy machine operators, and the potential for birds to transmit disease to workers. In addition, gulls often carry waste off site. The result is the accumulation of feces and the deposition of garbage on surrounding industrial and residential areas. This creates a nuisance and potential health risk.

Roof-top Colonies

Roof-top colonies of nesting gulls can cause damage to structures by contamination from fecal droppings. Accumulated bird droppings can reduce the functional life of some building roofs by 50%. Corrosion damage to metal structures and painted finishes can occur due to the high concentration of uric acid in bird droppings. In addition, gulls transport large amounts of nest material and food remains to the roof-tops. This can obstruct roof drainage systems and lead to structural damage.

Federal and State Protection

All gull species, including ring-billed, herring, and great black-backed gull, are protected by Federal and State laws and regulations. In New York State, management responsibility for gulls is shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Link leaves DEC website) it is illegal to kill, sell, purchase, or possess migratory birds or their parts (feathers, nests, eggs, etc.) except as permitted by regulations adopted by USFWS and DEC.

How Can I Alleviate Problems Caused By Nuisance Gulls?

It is the responsibility of all parties who wish to take ring-billed, herring, or great black-backed gulls in New York State to understand and comply with all applicable Federal and State regulations and permit requirements.

When a Federal Permit is Required

A Federal depredation permit is required before any person may take, possess, or transport migratory birds, including ring-billed, herring, or great black-backed gulls for depredation control purposes. Also, a Federal permit is required for any person to disturb or destroy nests or eggs of ring-billed, herring, or great black-backed gulls or to capture, handle, or kill adult or juvenile ring-billed, herring, or great black-backed gulls. However, a permit is not required merely to scare or herd depredating ring-billed, herring, or great black-backed gulls, as long as no birds are physically harmed. All Federal migratory bird depredation permits require an annual report of activities from the permittee.

A State permit is not required to take ring-billed, herring, and great black-backed gulls. Only a Federal depredation permit is required.

For information about Federal migratory bird depredation permits, contact:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Permit Office
P.O. Box 779
Hadley, MA 01035-0779

Tel. (413) 253-8643
Fax (413) 253-8424
Email: permitsR5MB@fws.gov
(Please include your telephone number in the text of your message.)