Want to save the birds? ‘It makes the seagulls nervous’

It is a cold and blustery evening in Jerusalem. Two young Orthodox girls are out of the house — huddled together and chatting away over a cup of tea, gently plucking a bird from the nearby shrubbery. A day earlier, the girl had brought home four birds, dressed them up and put them in an airtight metal cage. These are a type of seagull known as the Bradfords, and they are a major problem in eastern Jerusalem. The seagulls take the chicks from nests built by Jewish women in prepared boxes.

Every year, thousands of females have fed young seagulls on the city’s streets and parks, where their young crawl up the thorny foliage and become suddenly dropped on to the ground. Their parents, confused, scoop them up and drop them into the bushes.

It has become so bad that Palestinian children in East Jerusalem have decided to help protect the little ones — by feeding them, after school and on weekends, portions of challah, or the open-face sweet bread. The Palestinian child who feeds the birds holds a net over them.

“It makes the seagulls nervous,” says Hanan, 14, who lives in the Old City. “But most of them come when they see the bird-bait.”

For several months, Palestinian children have been bringing birds in the hope of persuading seagulls to leave the East Jerusalem neighborhoods. But the seagulls have begun slipping away after a few days, Hanan says.

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