Red-billed gulls, keeping roofs free

Published on 21 July 2021

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With red-billed gull nesting season getting close, Oamaru building owners are reminded to act early to prevent these protected birds from settling on their roofs.

As it’s illegal to disturb the gulls once they are actively nesting - which typically begins in September -Waitaki District Council are working closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to get the prevention message out to building owners. 

Nesting gulls can lead to expensive repairs, clogged gutters and noisy neighbours for up to five months. However, there are steps that can be taken to discourage them, including clearing nesting material from roofs daily and, where possible, installing a physical barrier to stop them settling on roofs.

Prevention is typically less hassle than dealing with a nesting colony on your roof for the season, so building owners should make sure deterrents are in place by August.

Red-billed gulls seem abundant but they’re actually in decline nationally, with their numbers down 50% over the last 25 years. Like the kākāpo, takahē and kiwi they are a protected species. The maximum penalties for disturbing wildlife are up to 2 years in prison or a $100,000 fine, or both.

Red-billed gulls have always been residents of Oamaru. Oamaru is a coastal town which means we encroach on their natural habitat, and they on ours. All seabirds are noisy and messy and exhibit aggressive behaviour to protect their young and territory, so red-bills don’t have a monopoly on it.

Acting Heritage, Environment and Regulatory Manager Roger Cook said, “By working together to make buildings less attractive for breeding, and by reducing the food available in town for gulls, we can minimise the conflict between gulls and people.”

Together with DOC, Council has put together a guide to keeping your roof clear of nesting gulls, available from the council website and as a flyer, providing advice and guidance on how to gull-proof your property.