Thursday 25 April 2019

Sisters' seagull terror as bird splits their lips while swooping to snatch chips

Susan Farrelly with her kids from l to r, Nova, 5, Romey, 15 and Vega, 2 and a half, they were attacked by seagulls while eating chips in Howth, Dublin. Photo; Damien Eagers
Susan Farrelly with her kids from l to r, Nova, 5, Romey, 15 and Vega, 2 and a half, they were attacked by seagulls while eating chips in Howth, Dublin. Photo; Damien Eagers

Two sisters have warned of the danger of aggressive seagulls after they were attacked while eating fish and chips on a family walk at the seaside.

Laura Grehan (37) and Susan Farrelly (40), both from Castleknock, were at Howth Harbour at around 2pm on Sunday when a seagull swooped down and stole a chip from Ms Farrelly's mouth.

Less than a minute later, what the women believe was the same bird struck again, this time targeting Ms Grehan.

Ms Farrelly suffered a cut to her bottom lip, but her sister's injury was more serious and left her mouth dripping with blood.

She needed a tetanus injection and antibiotics.


Ms Farrelly's children Romey (15), five-year-old Nova and two-year-old Vega, and Ms Grehan's children Jacob (13), Summer (10), seven-year-old Elijah and two-year-old Aurora were with them during the attacks.

Ms Farrelly told the Herald that after the first incident the children thought it was funny.

However, they got a fright when the bird struck again, especially Elijah who thought it might be his fault after he dropped a handful of chips.

"As I went to put a chip in my mouth the seagull came down and put its beak in my mouth," Ms Farrelly said.

"He cut my lip and I went hysterical. My sister was laughing at me, but within 60 seconds the same seagull came back and ripped my sister's whole lip.

"Her lip is all swollen. It went from inside the lip. Her mouth was pouring with blood.

"We think it was the same seagull because it had a big red mark on the bill."

Ms Farrelly, a musical the-atre teacher, said it was "like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie".

"There were loads of them. It was like a scene from The Birds," she said.

"I suppose it was funny for us as adults, but if it had been the kids it would have been more serious."

After the attack, she said they warned other people eating fish and chips of the danger and some went to finish their snacks in their cars.

"It's absolutely horrific for it to happen, as much as we were laughing about it," said Ms Farrelly.

"My sister got a tetanus. It cost her €60. I didn't because I wasn't going to let a seagull put me into debt."

Ms Grehan, who is a stay-at-home mum, said she was surprised by the attack.

"I was shocked when it happened to Susan, we thought it was just a freak thing," she said. "I've never seen anything like it.

"When we phoned the out-of-hours doctor service, I thought they would think it was a wind-up.

"But they said it was actually very common."

The sisters said they were hoping the council would put up a sign at the harbour warning people that seagulls can be aggressive.

While there are signs advising people not to feed the birds, they felt these do not make it clear that the gulls can also attack.

"The seagulls are vicious and they do attack," Ms Farrelly said.

She and her sister said they would support a cull of seagulls as called for by Fianna Fail senator Ned O'Sullivan in 2014.


"I know a politician called for it a few years ago and he was laughed at," Ms Grehan said. "A lot of people have been att-acked."

Mr O'Sullivan said last night he would rather not comment.

Dermot McCabe, of Bird Watch Ireland, said the behaviour described by the sisters was the result of people feeding gulls and the birds becoming habituated.

"I don't know what can be done about it," he said. "It wouldn't be attacking - they're following through on the notion they that this is a source of food.

"Gulls have a hook at the end of their bills, not the same as a bird of prey but approaching that.

"They're big birds and they can do damage. It's simply looking for grub - that's the danger."

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council said Howth Harbour was the responsibility of the harbourmaster.

"We would urge people, as with any animals that they can be unpredictable," a spokesman for the harbourmaster said.

It was not clear if a sign could be erected at the harbour warning about the seagulls as requested by Ms Farrelly and Ms Grehan.

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