LEAFLETS are to be sent to every house in Portsmouth telling people not to feed pigeons and seagulls.
Portsmouth City Council’s environment department has come up with the scheme as it fears some people offer daily ‘banquets’ to the birds, risking a population explosion.
And it has warned that in the future ‘repeat offenders’ could be fined.
Environment boss Eleanor Scott said: ‘There are parts of the city where complaints are regularly made about pigeons, particularly in Fratton, and seagulls, in Southsea, Old Portsmouth and across the city.
‘It’s not that there are far too many at the moment, but their numbers appear to be growing and we want to avoid a situation in which there are too many and they become an even greater pest.
‘The birds cause a nuisance by flocking, and their droppings can spread disease as well as making a mess.’
She revealed the council had ruled out a cull, because it would not work in the long term. It said controlling the amount available for them to eat would be more effective.
She said: ‘They aren’t supposed to live in cities, but both species are scavengers, so if it’s easy for them to get food, they settle.
‘Culling is cruel and if the food’s there, the numbers will rise again anyway. The big problem is people who scatter seed outside their houses.
‘They are effectively offering a daily banquet to the birds, and with extra food, they breed more often, raising numbers further. So, if we let people know, and the food is reduced, numbers will be kept under control far more.’
The measure is designed to educate people, but the council admits a system of fines may be introduced.
In 2006, the council fined a 46-year-old woman, Ruth Shorter, from Liverpool Road, Fratton, £100 for ‘littering’ by dropping bird seed.
But under the new scheme, which would aim to see people stopped from feeding birds except in parks, a by-law would have to be passed, similar to that in Westminster, where people are banned from feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
The by-law, if passed, will cover the whole city and ban people feeding birds on any street.
Cllr Scott said: ‘People like to feed the birds, and we don’t want to stop them.
‘But the risk of disease and the fact the food also attracts rats means we have to do something. If people want to feed birds, they can go to parks with a small amount of seed, and do it there. But after we’ve let them know, we’ll have to enforce it. One way will be to issue a warning and then fine people.
‘We don’t want to spoil people’s enjoyment, and it’s good for the city to have wildlife and birds in it, but we all have to work together to deal with the issue, keeping the numbers low so they don’t become unpopular and picked on.’
The scheme is still under development by the council.
Head of community housing, Alan Cufley, said: ‘The education part of the policy is most important.
‘We don’t want to use a stick when we can persuade people.’