Find out how to report gull issues in the Scarborough area, how to deter gulls from nesting on your property and the laws that protect these birds.

Gull advice

Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes are two species of seabirds that breed in our urban areas. To help tackle the challenges that gulls present in the area please: 

  • do not feed the gulls 
  • never drop litter – use public bins or take it home 
  • do not put refuse sacks out too early 
  • cover refuse sacks to prevent an attack, or purchase a seagull proof outer sack
  • do not overfill your bin so that the lid cannot close

Report gull conflicts

It is important that we gather evidence about the gull interactions with people. You can report issues such as:  

  • noise nuisance caused by gulls, including distress calls to warn other gulls of perceived danger 
  • gull carcasses or gull droppings – as well as being a nuisance on paths, cars or property these droppings also pose a health risk if they are near people or food establishments. They are also a safety hazard if the faeces make steps or paths slippery 
  • damage to property due to droppings or debris from nests blocking gutters/downpipes/gas flues 
  • diving and swooping on people and pets which can sometimes cause injury 
  • discarded food waste left in the open or people feeding gulls 
  • overflowing litter bins or open skips from which gulls are obtaining food  
Report an urban gull incident

To report an urban gull incident please complete our online gull incident form. 

Report an urban gull incident in the Scarborough area

You can also contact us to report a gull incident.

Gull proofing property scheme

We have a gull proofing property scheme for private buildings.

Through a match funding arrangement, we will contribute 50% (up to a maximum of £2,000) towards the cost of gull proofing any building located within Filey, Scarborough and Whitby town centres. 

To apply for this financial contribution you will need to  complete our gull proofing application form (pdf / 374 KB). Please read the terms and conditions before you apply. 

For queries about the scheme, contact us.

Order seagull-proof sacks

If you use domestic waste sacks at your residential property or have subscribed to chargeable domestic collections for your business, you can purchase a seagull proof outer sack for your council waste collections.

Order seagull-proof sacks

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes?

Both these types of birds are known as gulls but their ecology and behaviour are quite different. There are also differences in the way the law applies to them so it is important to differentiate between the two species.

The RSPB website provides useful information about how to tell the two types of species apart. 


These are small, delicate gulls which only return to land long enough to nest and raise their chicks. Identifying features: 

  • their plumage is similar to Herring Gulls apart from the all black tips to their wing (as if dipped in ink) 
  • the bill is yellow but their feet and legs are black – this is in contrast to all other species of gulls 
  • a distinctive cry which sounds like “kittie-wa-ake” 
  • they do not take human food or waste 
  • they are not associated with behaviours such as swooping at humans unless they feel their nests or chicks are at risk 

Kittiwakes nest on window and building ledges but only in certain places in Scarborough – between Spa Bridge and Sandside. Their nests may only be removed in the winter when the birds are away.

Herring Gulls

These are large, vocal gulls that live all year round in coastal towns, usually nesting on chimney pots and rooftops. Identifying features: 

  • mostly white with grey wings and back 
  • pink legs and feet with a yellow hooked bill with a prominent red spot – young birds are mottled brown 
  • they are territorial and very protective of their offspring 
  • they are quick to take other food sources such as food waste in litter bins 
  • they are associated with ‘gull muggings’ when the birds swoop down at or near people to take food they have spotted 

We are working with businesses and the general public to try and combat the gulls’ aggressive behaviour, especially in the spring and summer seasons, when they seek out food to feed their young.

Are these gulls protected by the law?

All wild birds, their nests, eggs and chicks are protected by law – read the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

To protect buildings, clearing old nests must be done at the end of the breeding season and completed in winter. Kittiwakes may return to traditional nest sites as early as February – removing an old Kittiwake nest once the birds have started to add new material is an offence. 

Obtaining a Natural England Licence to remove a nest

Property owners can have Herring Gull nests and eggs removed by a specialist contractor if certain conditions apply. Individuals need to apply to Natural England for a Natural England Licence which provides exemption from prosecution.

This licence will only be issued if Natural England is satisfied there is a public health or public safety issue in connection to the activities of the named specie, such as a gas flue is blocked by a nest which could cause a build-up of harmful gases. The conditions of the licence include: 

  • removal must be for public health or public safety reasons only (nuisance, noise or mess are not legal reasons) 
  • other legal methods of resolving the public safety issue have been tried and were not successful or not practical 
  • the conservation status of the species must not be harmed by the control measures 

Please note there is no licence that allows the legal removal of active Kittiwakes’ nests. The only legal way to control Kittiwakes nesting on a building is to install proofing measures before nesting begins. 

For up to date legislation and advice visit: 

What actions can you take to deter gulls from nesting on your property?

There are a number of ways to legally deter Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes from nesting on your property:


  • at the end of every nesting season (usually September until February) remove all nests and nesting material from your building
  • please note that it is against the law to remove a Kittiwake nest once new nesting material is added

Proofing buildings

Removing nests will not stop the birds from coming back – they will build another nest the following spring. We recommend proofing of buildings. Take specialist advice for your building as to which option is most suitable:

  • bird exclusion netting – fine netting (maximum mesh size of 25mm) can be fitted but it is crucial it is installed correctly to prevent birds’ wings from becoming caught in the mesh. Inspect the netting regularly to stop it from tearing, otherwise the birds can get behind it and start a nest or they can become injured/killed if they get trapped by the netting 
  • bird repellent gel (often known as fire gel) – these are non-toxic and deter the birds from landing on a surface due to the smell of the gel, the UV light reflected from it and the feel of it. More discreet and cost effective than netting and can last for up to two years 
  • bird spikes – substantial stainless steel spikes are recommended as most pigeon spikes are not strong enough for larger gulls like Herring Gulls. Kittiwakes are known to use the spikes to secure their nest and there have been instances where birds have become injured by standing on the spikes

You can carry out winter nest clearing yourself or by hiring someone else to do it. We advise you to use a pest control company to carry out proofing work where special access platforms or safety equipment is needed.

The cost of preventing nests on a property is the responsibility of the owner or occupier. The steps you take may be more effective if you join forces with your neighbours and may keep the cost down.

How can you reduce a potential gull issue when planning an extension or new buildings?

Our planning team may be able to provide you with advice on measures to reduce or avoid gulls becoming an issue if you are applying for planning permission for a new building or to extend your property.

Pre-application advice can be found in our planning section.