Offside: Gulls 1, humans 0


A Bruges court recently ordered construction works in the harbour to be temporarily halted until after the gull breeding season

Flanders' seagull have waged long, tenacious campaign

Last week, Zeebrugge’s seagulls celebrated their first recorded victory over humans, when a court in Bruges ordered that construction works in the harbour be suspended so that the birds, until recently threatened with forcible contraception, reach the end of the breeding season.

The attentive reader will recall that Flanders’ coastal seagulls have been waging a long campaign. In 2012, they started a series of guerrilla attacks because tourists were no longer bringing enough food to the beach. One worker at the rail freight depot in the port of Zeebrugge was hospitalised. The council proposed removing nests and sabotaging eggs. Down the coast in Ostend, they wanted to moor large bins of food offshore, like sacrificial offerings to a feathery and wrathful god.

The gulls were not fooled. They ignored the bins, preferring to eat the rubbish provided on the promenade. Likewise, they laughed up their sleeves at the special reinforced rubbish bags tested by the council, blithely digging into the bags and scattering everything inedible all over the streets. In Knokke-Heist, as befits its upmarket image, a fake fox attached to a remote controlled car chassis was deployed to scare the gulls away, to equally futile effect.

To be fair, the main plaintiff in the court case was human. Bird protection outfit Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen told the court that the breeding potential of some 6,500 pairs of gulls was at stake because their traditional grounds were occupied by construction equipment. If robbed of their breeding space, the gulls would probably move into town and nest on people’s roofs, VV said.

The court ruled in their favour: Better the devil you know out on the outskirts than two metres from your bedroom. In the meantime, works are suspended.

And, out on the shoreline, the birds plan their next move.

Photo coutesy Kulac/Wikimedia Commons