Gulls are commonly attracted to landfills, and managers are often required to implement cost-effective and socially accepted deterrence programs. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of an intensive program that integrated the use of trained birds of prey, pyrotechnics, and playback of gull distress calls at a landfill located close to a large ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) colony near Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We used long-term survey data on bird use of the landfill, conducted behavioral observations of gulls during one season and tracked birds fitted with GPS data loggers. We also carried out observations at another landfill located farther from the colony, where less refuse was brought and where a limited culling program was conducted. The integrated program based on falconry resulted in a 98% decrease in the annual total number of gulls counted each day between 1995 and 2014. A separate study indicated that the local breeding population of ring-billed gulls increased and then declined during this period but remained relatively large. In 2010, there was an average (±SE) of 59 ± 15 gulls/day using the site with falconry and only 0.4% ± 0.2% of these birds were feeding. At the other site, there was an average of 347 ± 55 gulls/day and 13% ± 3% were feeding. Twenty-two gulls tracked from the colony made 41 trips towards the landfills: twenty-five percent of the trips that passed by the site with falconry resulted in a stopover that lasted 22 ± 7 min compared to 85% at the other landfill lasting 63 ± 15 min. We concluded that the integrated program using falconry, which we consider more socially acceptable than selective culling, was effective in reducing the number of gulls at the landfill.
Keywords: Larus delawarensis; anthropogenic food; bird control; culling; falconry; gull; landfill; pest management; scaring.