REFUSE collectors across the UK are reporting increased aggression among seagulls as the scarcity of scrap food through lockdown has turned them “absolutely feral”.

Vicious behaviour in seagulls is nothing new. One postman was forced to change his route after a particularly nasty bird “dive-bombed” him every day for a month.

One woman in Paignton, Devon even had her chihuahua Gizmo carried off by a seagull in 2019.

Many seagulls rely on scavenging human food waste to survive, but the massive drop in footfall on Britain’s high streets through lockdown has reportedly led to even more violent behaviour.

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The decline in people has led to a decline in waste, and is reportedly making birds more likely to go to people’s personal bins for food.

One man, appearing on ITV’s This Morning, reported being “held hostage” by birds living on the roof of his bungalow, saying: “I was struck on the back of the head by a fully-grown gull … It chased me up the road and had three more goes at me.”

East Riding of Yorkshire Council has warned residents that “seagulls may be more hungry than normal and may behave aggressively”.

The National: Seagulls fight for food on a beach in EnglandSeagulls fight for food on a beach in England

Charlie, a binman who works for refuse service, said he had seen the problem worsen through lockdown.

He said: “I’ve had them swoop at me while I pull bins up to the truck, try and pull half-eaten food out of open bins while we’re emptying them, diving at the lorry … they’re absolutely feral.

“They’re always quite scary because they’re huge, but now it seems like they’re out for blood if you take any scrap of food away.”

His colleague, Adam, added: “They’re an absolute menace - there are certain routes I won’t do now unless I’m given a hard hat and a chance of protecting myself against them.”

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Mark Hall, a spokesperson for the same firm, warned people not to take matters into their own hands as gulls are protected by law.

All species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to intentionally or, in Scotland, recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.

Hall went on: “We do have to coexist with gulls and other wildlife - and it’s up to us to take as many steps as possible to ensure our rubbish doesn’t create a tempting buffet for any hungry birds driven out of quiet city centres.

“They soon learn where is a good source of food, so if you’re prone to leaving binbags out, they’ll flock to your bins for a scavenge and you’ll find it difficult - or even dangerous - to discourage them.”

Residents are advised to:

- Ensure bins are closed, with a proper lid, to stop birds getting into any waste food and becoming dependent

- Never litter as it provides a food source

- Not leave bin bags on the street overnight as they’re easily ripped by gulls and cause a huge headache for rubbish collectors

- Not encourage the gulls by feeding them - this creates a vicious circle where birds will return for food