The nation laughed out loud last summer when a Fianna Fáil senator, Ned O’Sullivan from County Kerry, spoke out and declared that Ireland’s seagulls had “lost the run of themselves completely” and stated he was “very much against seagulls.” He went on to accuse the gulls of stealing candy from children and partying late into the night, keeping decent, law-abiding humans awake.
But this summer, the seagulls of Kerry are worse than ever. Newspapers reported on gulls killing sheep. One farmer reported seeing the giant seagulls attacking his ewes using not only their beaks but also their claws. The report did not mention how the gulls, who have webbed feet, came to be in possession of claws, but one can guess that they have connections with criminal gangs and possibly even weapons manufacturers. The Irish Times also reported on a motorcyclist being attacked by the giant gulls of Co. Kerry and quoted the victim as saying “… it was like a Second World War Stuka coming in… he knew what he was doing.” More recently, a swimmer was attacked while enjoying the waves on a Co. Kerry beach.
Are We Extra Gullible in the Summer?
An online poll indicated that more than half of those who responded supported a cull of seagulls. Wildlife experts disagree. They point out that not only do seagulls have webbed feet and not claws, their population is declining. The Herring Gull is red listed, according to Bird Watch Ireland, while the Common Gull, the Great and Lesser Black Backed Gull, and the Black-Legged Kittiwake are all amber listed due to declining populations. In the circumstances, a cull might be overkill.
Two factors strike every July and August that draw attention to the behavior of our wayward, winged residents. The first is that July is a very slow news month; it is widely recognized as the ‘silly season’ for the media. The cynics among us might note that if the members of the Dáil were debating major legislation or elections were underway, the seagull’s criminal antics would be unlikely to make headlines.
This is also the time of year when baby gulls hatch. Apparently, Irish seagull mothers are even fiercer when caring for their young than their human counterparts. Why are they attacking people and sheep, neither of which is part of their regular diet? Note that the attacks reported are all in Co. Kerry. (No, there will not be a joke about the Kerry man here. Readers will have to provide their own.) What makes the people and sheep of Kerry so irresistible to gulls? The lack of other options might be the root of the problem. Some contend that overfishing is driving the gulls inland, and that while in the past they foraged at landfills, County Kerry no longer has any. What’s a mama seagull to do when she has a nest of hungry chicks to feed?
The gulls in Dublin accused of snatching mobile phones and children’s candy, however, are just pure scumbags.