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Seagulls in the Netherlands: villains, yet protected by law

Ah, seagulls β€” the ultimate winged villains. Always ready to fly down and reign chaos on unsuspecting people. “Get rid of them all!”, we scream, but alas, the flying bastards are protected.

Seeing seagulls gang up on people naively enjoying their croquette or herring is pretty much an everyday occurrence in the Netherlands β€” especially near the beach.

Relentless, predatory, and ambitious: seagulls will always find a way to snatch food from your hand.

In other countries, the solution to such a seagull issue might be to shoot them, and, in typical human fashion, probably drive them to extinction.

READ MORE | Animal welfare in the Netherlands: an introduction to the Beter Leven star system

In the Netherlands, however, seagulls are protected by law. “Oh God, why?” you may ask. The truth is, we don’t really know. πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ We guess the Dutch like to accommodate all beings, human or not, that live in the country.

In defence of the seagulls

We’re not big fans of seagulls ourselves, but there is a point to be made about them.

Most animals struggle to thrive in urban environments, which is why many go extinct or are pushed out of cities to rural areas. Seagulls, on the other hand, are not only ever-present in (Dutch) cities, they even thrive in these kinds of environments.

photo-of-seagull-on-dutch-beach
Waiting for you to get up so they can snatch your snacks. Image: Pixabay

Normally, seagulls are sea-faring birds, but nowadays, you can also find them deep inland, where there are delicious trashbags to rip open in cities.

Birds, in general, are well-suited for urban living, as they have high mobility and can travel wherever they want, unlimited by urban obstacles.

Crows and ravens are great examples of such birds, whose intelligence and problem-solving help them navigate urban life successfully.

READ MORE | Spotting Dutch birds: a bird expedition from your own home

So, just like any other bird, seagulls deserve our respect simply because they are able to survive in the heavily modified environments we developed in the last two centuries.

Sure, they’re not as gracious and mysterious as ravens are, as they have more of a schoolyard-bully-stealing-your-lunch-money kind of approach to problem-solving. But hey, no judgement!

Attempts to control the Dutch seagull population

The Dutch have tried to deal with the seagulls before, but the great adaptability of the birds has made all such attempts fail. Now, the seagulls are allowed to roam free through the skies of the Netherlands.

photo-seagull-pulling-trash-out-of-trash-can-in-the-netherlands
The smugness is what does it for us. Image: Depositphotos

Several ineffective measures were applied in the past to deal with the pesky seagulls.

For example, some people tried to hunt them down with falcons. That method was ineffective, however β€” especially for the falcons, which tend to get hurt in urban areas.

Others have tried to reintroduce foxes in the dune landscape to control the population of seagulls, but our lovely birds have replaced the dunes for the city, also rendering these measures ineffective.

READ MORE | Hat glued to pigeon in Amsterdam: animal rights groups furious

Some geniuses have tried shooting the gulls, but there’s just something about carrying weapons in urban areas and shooting birds mid-air, that seems a bit ineffective (and slightly American). πŸ˜…

Seagull-looking-into-the-camera-by-a-canal-in-Amsterdam
Seagulls stare into your soul. Image: Pixabay

Lastly, there’s been attempts to replace their eggs with fake eggs, but this has turned out to be pointless and expensive.

Overall, seagulls see through all and every human plot against them.

Seagulls: a protected species in Holland

After a series of failed attempts at getting rid of the birds, the Dutch seemed to give up. Seagull species in the Netherlands are now protected by the Nature Conservation Act.

photo-of-seagull-on-dutch-beach
Chillin, so innocent looking… Image: Freepik

What this means is that you cannot disturb, capture, or kill any seagulls (no, not even if they steal your fries).

You’re also not allowed to remove their nests or eggs, so if you have one nesting straight on your balcony, bad luck to you, friend.

Jokes aside, you can probably call Animal Services to come to assist you if that is really the case. πŸ“žπŸ†˜

How to deal with seagulls in the Netherlands

What do Animal Protection services say? Well, they have some tips on how to deal with seagulls safely.

These measures include putting anti-nesting sticks on buildings and placing wires on rooftops to prevent nesting. They also suggest not leaving your garbage bags or exposed food on the street (a sensible idea, even without seagulls).

READ MORE | Dutchman wins European seagull screeching championship (yes, you read that right!)

Overall, seagulls are here to stay β€” at least in the Netherlands. Try not to feed them, befriend them, or make eye contact with them. Let them be, and they’ll leave you alone.

And keep your frietjes safe while walking!

What has your experience with seagulls been? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was originally published in March 2021 and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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