THERE can be no doubt that gulls get a bad press.

They're noisy, messy, often alarmingly large, and almost literally in your face in urban landscapes all over the land. One of their number is metaphorically in the dock at the Court of Session, accused of a "terror attack" on Greenock woman Cathie Kelly, who says she was terrified when a gull swooped on her as she headed for a nearby burger van.

Many of us have had unwelcome encounters with birds that are often traduced as rats with wings, but there is more to gulls than meets the eye, or assails the ear. They are monoga­mous, capable of recognising each other and of respecting their neighbours. They also return to the same nests every year, with mated pairs who have spent the winter apart reuniting for breeding.

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The gull, in its place, is a wonderful evocation of our seaside. All too often, though, it is an unwelcome pest.

We can lessen their negative impact through methods such as employing spikes, nets or wires to prevent them from nesting on buildings, and from being more careful with how we dispose of our food waste. It would be good to get back to a time when gulls were friends, not fiends.