Early this year, five dead herring gulls were discovered on a Cornish beach, and when tested it was found they had bird flu. This should have provoked serious concern: these were the first gulls to be found carrying bird flu in Britain. But because of the war and because we’re sick of epidemics, it was largely ignored.
The dead gulls matter because gulls live among us. Some 75 per cent of our herring gulls are now urban. There are 100,000 to 180,000 breeding on rooftops in England, according to the 2020 national census. Tim Newark sounded the alarm in these pages that year, but since then the problem has grown and now there may be bird flu to contend with.
Along with lesser black-backed gulls, herring gulls breed prolifically on rooftops, where their chicks are safe from foxes and badgers.