They are pirates of the skies with no qualms about murder, theft and cannibalism as well as displaying disgusting habits.

These avian scoundrels will defecate on freshly-cleaned cars, patios and windows and squirt foul-smelling liquid at humans straying near nests or young.

They can draw blood from human heads with bills or feet and feed chicks by regurgitating evil-looking paste.

They litter streets by plundering rubbish bins and bags searching for food while minor transgressions include intercepting bread crusts intended for ducks and uttering loud, wailing cries at dawn.

No wonder people find it difficult to love gulls.

They become the subject of summer newspaper headlines when indignant holidaymakers complain one has stolen their ice cream or chips. Gulls have also been noted stealing contents from fish and butcher’s shops, drowning other birds in lakes and feeding on seal carcasses.

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Herring Gull by Jim Butler

Herring Gull by Jim Butler

Hiding in a variety of disguises, they are perhaps the most aggressive and least-loved group of birds. Multiple age group plumages are demanding to master and some of the most committed birdwatchers neglect to include them on lists. Yet even gulls have devotees with dedicated groups of larophiles patiently sifting through hundreds to locate rare overseas visitors. Gulls are everywhere, every day. A Natural England survey recently found four fifths of gulls have deserted the sea for easy pickings at inland rubbish dumps like those at Crayford.

Marianne Taylor grew up with herring gulls calling raucously near her Hastings home and writes of her affection for gulls in a new book called “The Gull Next Door.”

She reminds us there is no such thing as a seagull. Different types include black headed, herring, lesser black-backed and great black-backed among the commonest of eight gull species seen regularly in Britain.

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Courtesy of Princeton University Press

Courtesy of Princeton University Press

Great black-backed are fearsome. I once saw a male land in a black-headed gull colony and devour chicks from several nests until satisfied. Pirate gulls harass puffins until they release their fish catch and steal eggs and young left unattended by seabirds on cliff ledges.

Marianne’s book will promote understanding of gulls and perhaps enable the reader to find some love for them.

The Gull Next Door by Marianne Taylor is published by Princeton University Press price £22.