Kittiwake nests have been removed from a landmark bridge in Scarborough, leaving hundreds of endangered seabirds homeless, bird watchers have said.
Bird repellent gel has also been added following concerns that excrement was damaging the Listed II Spa Bridge, North Yorkshire County Council said.
The council said it had consulted Natural England, who said it would not harm the birds’ wider habitat.
Birdwatcher Nick Addey is calling for alternative nesting sites to be built.
The kittiwake is a small species of gull that is on the ‘red list’ of conservation, and according to the RSPB, world numbers have declined by 40% since the 1970s.
Mr Addey said nests can build up over the years as birds return to the bridge and make new nests on old ones.
“Nests can be up to about 10 inches tall, there are some large structures,” he said.
“You also get some newer breeding birds that have smaller nests [council contractors] they removed all that and then glued these little containers of fire gel, which emits ultraviolet light that seagulls see as flame, so they don’t come near them.
Mr Addey said a similar problem had been solved near Tyne Bridge, linking Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, and artificial nesting sites – ledge towers – had been built to house the displaced birds.
“This is a real bargain for Scarborough – there’s no reason why they couldn’t provide one of these towers next to the bridge.”
He said many people in the local birdwatching community had complained to the council about the measures, but acknowledged it was a problem that needed to be addressed.
“It’s quite a problem for the council, the number of kittiwakes is on the rise in the town but has fallen across the UK – which is why we’re all concerned about it,” he said.
North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director for business and environmental services, Karl Battersby, said the impact of the measures would be monitored.
He said: “Before work began, we commissioned an independent habitat assessment, to which we are rightfully obligated, and consulted with Natural England. The conclusion was that the action would not be detrimental to the wider bird habitat.
“The works were planned in such a way as to avoid the presence of birds on the bridge. These involved cleaning old nest material and droppings, treating with disinfectant, and placing small jars of optical gel on the shelves.”
He added: “This method was chosen over netting or electric scarers because netting had the risk of entangling birds as well as being unsightly.”
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