Silver gulls making their presence felt ...
Splat: seagulls' potent deposits leave a costly legacy
By Peter Munro
May 29 2002
Seagulls do not look like destroyers. Certainly, they swoop and scream and beg,
but they appear to be a threat to no more than a discarded or unguarded potato
And yet the damage caused by the acidic droppings of the silver gull,
Australia's native and protected seagull, is testing the metal of our cities,
according to a study being conducted by Deakin University in Melbourne.
The study's author, Ian Temby, notes the example of seagull droppings causing
$1.2 million worth of corrosion damage to a container crane in the suburb of
Footscray, adjacent to the docks. Seagulls roosting and sometimes nesting on
rooftops block gutters and damage drainage systems,
The birds are thriving off human food waste and rubbish, and in Sydney there is
a "super-abundance" of about 15,000 seagulls, says the seabird projects officer
at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Nicholas Carlile.
"There are now so many birds that their defecating is becoming a problem that
councils and government departments are still fighting with," he said.
A large flock appears to have started nesting on Cockatoo Island, west of the
Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Fish Markets attract up to 400 seagulls a day,
requiring the employment of two full-time cleaners who spend a large part of
each day cleaning up the muck, says the markets' engineering manager, Joe
"It costs quite a bit, but when you come to a place like this you don't really
need to be sitting down where there is seagull crap everywhere," he said.
The company Patrick Autocare employs one person at about $45,000 a year just to
clean bird droppings off the 1200 cars it keeps for short periods at Glebe
Island and Darling Harbour. Its state manager, Stuart Carlaw, said acidic
seagull and pigeon droppings were very aggressive at eating into the duco.
"We have to wash about 90 per cent of our cars to remove the poo off them.
Otherwise it eats through the paint to the bare metal."
Manly Council workers use a high-pressure water cleaner twice a week to get rid
of the mess that seagulls and pigeons and left behind on pavements and seats by
seagulls and pigeons.
But Dr Michael Weston, conservation manager at the ornithologists' organisation
Birds Australia, said: "It is not as if they are evil by nature and have decided
to wage a waste war. They are more a part of Australian beach culture than a guy
on a surfboard."
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