As families across Wales head to the seaside for the Bank Holiday weekend, a national trade body is urging people to be wary of gulls as their egg-laying season gets underway.

During the breeding season, gulls have been known to launch attacks on people, says British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

After mating and nest-building in February and March, many gulls will be protecting nests and eggs towards the end of April and into May.

However, BPCA is also reminding people that avoiding gulls wherever possible is always the best course of action as interfering with wild birds, their eggs or nests could lead to prosecution.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that all wild birds and their eggs are protected, but people with the appropriate knowledge on licences, such as BPCA members, can take steps if the birds are causing a public health and safety concern.

Natalie Bungay, Technical Manager at BPCA, said: “We love British birds. All wild birds and their eggs are rightfully protected by law in the UK, so it is absolutely vital that holidaymakers, householders or business owners don’t interfere with them.

“However, gulls can pose a serious safety concern. They have been known to attack people unexpectedly, which can be a frightening experience, especially if they draw blood, which can occasionally happen.

“We often think of gulls as a coastal problem – which they can be in seaside towns where people have fed them regularly. But for some time now they have also been an increasing problem in towns and cities away from the coast too.”

Gulls can live for 25 to 30 years and many weigh around 1kg, with wingspans of around one metre.

Seaside visitors can try to avoid attracting gulls by ensuring picnic foods or chippy take-aways are kept covered or eaten out of sight of gulls where possible.

Nesting gulls can cause problems for homes and businesses both on the coast and inland, as well as at supermarkets and hospitals, as these buildings can offer ideal nesting sites which are difficult to access and proof.

Nests can clog gutters or chimneys, which may cause water overflows, or potential issues with carbon monoxide, as well as bringing a risk of secondary infestation from bird mites, ticks, fleas and beetles.

Properties are also at risk from bird droppings, which can carry some harmful bacteria and diseases, as well as even cause slips, trips and falls where they build up.

Natalie added: “Gulls are also protected by the law, so it really is important to seek professional help.

“BPCA members are trained in bird control and will be able to offer a management plan that will alleviate the issue.

“There are a variety of bird-proofing measures available, all of which will deter birds without causing them harm, and as gulls are large and heavy, any proofing measures need to be suitable for the job, very heavy duty and correctly installed by a professional.

“Bird prevention, proofing and control is a highly specialised area requiring specific equipment and techniques. Pest professionals are required to try all reasonably practicable non-lethal bird control methods before they consider lethal control.

“Always consult a BPCA member before considering any form of bird management. You could be prosecuted if you illegally interfere with a bird, its nest or eggs.”

BPCA members are trained, experienced professionals with access to a range of specialist products not available to the public, as well as being regularly assessed to the British Standard in Pest Management BS EN 16636.

BPCA members are also endorsed by the Government via the TrustMark quality scheme.