VIDEO: Herring gull rescue

Do you know what to do if a herring gull chick falls into your garden?

Wadars animal rescue is receiving dozens of calls every day from people across the area asking for help.

A rescued herring gull chick

A rescued herring gull chick

Many people expect the gull chicks to be taken away to be cared for but actually, the best thing for them is to be returned to their nest.

Animal welfare officer Billy Elliott said: "Their parents won't abandon them, they will keep on feeding them. Most birds feed their babies beak to beak but they can also drop food down and the babies will gobble it up quickly."

Parent birds will protect their young, sometimes quite aggressively, by swooping or even vomiting on people as a warning.

"They are only doing what comes naturally, they are protecting their young," explained Billy.

"The main priority is to get the babies back on the roof. It causes quite a commotion among other birds in the area so they have to go back where they came from or they will be attacked."

Wadars' role is animal rescue, to help young animals or birds in distress. The charity does not look after them itself.

Billy takes injured birds to Brent Lodge WIldlife Hospital near Chichester and others to RSPCA Mallydams Wood in Hastings.

Rescued gulls have been ringed and monitored over many years and the data shows the Worthing area plays a key role in the herring gull population. Birds born here have been spotted in France, Spain and Portugal.

Billy said: "Over the last 35 years, more than 40 per cent of the herring gull population has disappeared. If that decline continues, they could be extinct in 30-odd years time, so they are now a protected species.

"Worthing is quite an important area for these gulls, which are declining much more quickly elsehwere in Europe."

Billy accepts that not everyone likes birds nesting on their roof but points out they are creatures of habit and once they have nested one year, they will return annually to the same spot.

"They can cause what I would describe as an inconvenience," he said. "Some people see it as more than that but at the end of the day, we do live on the coast and they are coastal birds."

People can put up detterents, like netting, but this needs to be done properly and outside the nesting season, so September to March. Netting must also maintained properly and if a bird does get trapped, the owner could be prosecuted.

Fallen chicks need to be hand reared for up to six weeks, until they have grown enough to fly. As there are limited spaces available for this, Wadars wants to encourage people to leave chicks where they are so they can be returned to their nest more easily.

If protective parents are causing a problem, Billy suggests putting an umbrella while in the garden.

"We don't want to encourage people to try to put them back on the roof themselves. We are more than happy to do that where necessary but our resources are limited.

"We have space only for the ones where we don't know where they have come from. People need to realise we are not going to come and take the chicks away unless we have to. The priority is to get them back to their parents."

Visit www.wadars.co.uk for more information or call 01903 247111 with a wildlife emergency.