They’re the beady-eyed delinquents that once terrorised a town’s magistrates with their alarming dive-bombing antics.
And now the pesky seagulls that once swooped down on visitors to Barry’s former courthouse have claimed another scalp – by forcing a temporary halt to the building’s long-awaited redevelopment.
The move is the latest example of a seagull menace that has hit headlines across the UK this summer, with newspaper rife with stories of attacks by seaside birds and the Royal Mail even halting deliveries to some gull-plagued addresses.
In Barry, the belligerent birds have been standing guard over their young in rooftop nests on Thompson Street’s former court building.
Security has been stepped up to protect the seagulls and work on the project by Newydd Housing Association to build affordable houses, shops and a bistro on the site will not begin again until the chicks have left their nests.
Meanwhile, Cardiff and other Welsh towns and cities have had to develop action plans to deal with the seagull menace
It’s not the first time seagulls have been a nuisance at the building, and at nearby Barry Island.
Fred Johnson, who served as a magistrate at the Barry court said: “They used to dive bomb us as we got out of our cars at the back of the building. It was really quite frightening.
“They would sit on the roof and wait for us and then swoop.
“Some magistrates brought umbrellas to protect themselves. I used to put books on my head for protection.”
He added: “Sitting in court you could hear them squawking outside. Sometimes you had raise your voice to make yourself heard.”
Paul Roberts, chief executive of Newydd Housing Association, said: “We have been working with the ecologist from the Vale of Glamorgan Council throughout the demolition of the former magistrates’ court to ensure the seagull nests are protected.
“As safety of the nests remain paramount, and after advice from experts we have now decided that demolition will be halted until the chicks have fledged their nests. There will be security on site to protect all parties.”
The RSPB’s Grahame Madge said the former Barry courthouse building would appear like “gull heaven” to its new feathered residents.
He said: “It would look like a stack or a cliff where they could gain easy access and use as a place to nest. From there they would be able to look for food in the streets and on the coast.”
Once the chicks have fledged their nests they could head to nearby Barry Island looking for food.
Mr Madge said: “Gulls are very intelligent and live on their wits. They will capitalise on any way they can find food and will try to seize ice creams and fish and chips from people at places like Barry Island, or in cities like Cardiff.”
Marco Zeraschi, whose seafront cafe on Barry Island featured in the Gavin and Stacey sitcom, said: “I think the seagulls are more intelligent than some people.
“I’m sure they talk to each other and tell each other when it is a good time to come to Barry Island!
“I’ve seen seagulls take doughnuts out of people’s hands.
“In town, they know when it is black bag day in individual streets.
“More needs to be done to advise people not to feed them. Otherwise the situation will only get worse.”
A Vale council spokesman it could take until August for the chicks to fledge their nests at the former Barry court and warned people not to harm the gulls.
Last year, a seagull was seen flying over Cardiff with a crossbow bolt in its side.
He said: “We would discourage people from attempting to kill Herring Gulls which nest on their property and also strongly urge residents not to feed seagulls as this will cause more harm in the long term and can also cause unnecessary annoyance to neighbours.”
Cities such as Bath, Bristol, Gloucester and Aberdeen have seen populations of nesting birds double in five years.
In Wales, the Lesser Black-backed gull and the Herring Gull are thought to be the two main species of involved in nuisance behaviour.