Bird attacks on humans becoming more common, experts warn

‘As available nest sites become harder to find these interactions will increase,’ says Dr Steve Portugal

Phoebe Weston
Science Correspondent
Friday 16 August 2019 16:43 BST
Many birds of prey and seabirds will defend their eggs and young against intruders
Many birds of prey and seabirds will defend their eggs and young against intruders (Getty)

Bird attacks on people are getting more common according to wildlife experts who say the creatures are particularly likely to dive bomb those straying onto their territory at this time of year.

Many birds of prey and seabirds are defending their eggs and young against intruders, according to Dr Steve Portugal, an ecophysiologist from Royal Holloway University of London.

“Great Skuas in particular are renowned for dive-bombing anyone that gets too close to the nest, and colonies of Arctic Terns will protect their babies by aggressively mobbing any intruders," he told The Independent.

He added: “As available nest sites become harder to find due to habitat loss, it’s likely that these interactions between diligent bird parents and humans will increase”.

Earlier this year, Tom Ellis from Prestatyn in Wales was advised by the council to put up umbrellas to prevent sea gulls from mobbing him around his home. He said the birds nesting on his roof had turned aggressive after their chicks hatched leaving him scared to leave the house.

Andrea Jones, director of bird conservation at the US National Audubon Society told BBC that attacks were definitely rising.

Like Dr Portugal, she said this was largely caused by humans encroaching on bird habitats.

She also believes people are more aware of these interactions because they are being shared on social media.

In Vancouver there is a website called CrowTrax where people can log these incidents which are then put on an online map. Since the website was created in 2016 more than 5,000 reports have been logged.

Ornithologists often wear hard hats when checking nests for chicks and Ms Jones says she was attacked by common terns in Massachusetts while doing her latest research.

However, these attacks which normally happen when the bird flies into someone’s back or pecks at their head are unlikely to cause injury.

Experts say the best way to stop a bird attacking is to leave their territory. Birds are also less likely to attack if you keep them away from your line of sight.

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