RSPCA Warn Public Not to Feed Seagulls
Visitors to beaches in Cornwall are being asked not to feed the seagulls. The Friends of Par Beach (FoPB) Facebook page has recently been flooded with pictures of gulls with 'angel wing disease", after it was reported in the media that a bird with the condition had been found dead in the area.
What is "Angel Wing"?
"Angel wing" is also known as airplane wing, slipped wing and drooped wing. It is a syndrome which primarily afflicts aquatic birds. The final joint in the wing becomes twisted, causing the feathers to point out instead of lying against the body. The syndrome is incurable and is thought to be caused by poor nutrition.
High Calorie Diet Bad for Seabirds
"Angel Wing" is usually the result of a high-calorie diet, particularly one which is high in proteins but low in vitamins and manganese. Sometimes only one wing of the bird is affected and if this is the case, it is usually the left one. The reason for this is unknown. Birds are rendered flightless and so the condition generally results in premature death.
Feeding the Birds
Whilst the disease is relatively common in ducks and geese, it has not been witnessed in seagulls before. The RSPCA believe that the Cornish gulls may be suffering from "Angel Wing" because they are being fed by the public who tend to offer the birds snacks like bread which is high in calories but otherwise of poor nutritional value. Genetics may also play a role in the development of the condition.
Appropriate Bird Food
The RSPCA always advises the public not to feed bread to any birds. Grains, bird seed and fresh greens are a much better option. The charity has also stated that they don’t recommend that the public feed seagulls at all as this leads to other issues.
Feeding seagulls can result in over-population and the birds becoming a nuisance as they quickly learn where there are ready sources of food. They may even become aggressive to people if they realise that the public are likely to have food. Gulls in urban areas will start nesting on rooves and this will damage the buildings. More birds mean more mess and the bird poo can attract vermin and spread disease.
All in all, it is better for both people and seagulls if we refrain from feeding these seabirds. They do not prosper on a diet of bread, chips and other scraps and quickly become a serious nuisance when they start pestering people for their next meal.