Staring at seagulls will stop them taking your chips study finds

If you have taken advantage of the weather this summer and spent any time down at the sea front you might have had some unwanted guests, eyeing up your food.

Staring at seagulls could stop them stealing food
Staring at seagulls could stop them stealing food

There have been a plethora of stories about the common seagull stealing peoples chips, nabbing someones butty, or even flying-off with a loved ones pet pooch. However, according to new scientific research you can stop them pinching your lunch with one simple trick – staring at them.

Scientists from the University of Exeter found, on average, birds took 21 seconds longer to approach a bag of chips if they could see they were being watched.

The research found that, even though most seagulls have a reputation of never being too afraid to attack people for food or to protect their young, if a human was nearby, only 27 out of 74 birds tested would take a chip.

Seagulls are opportunistic feeders

“We found that human gaze direction significantly affected gulls' latency to approach the food: gulls took less time to approach when the experimenter was facing away versus looking directly at them.

“This demonstrates that gulls use behavioural cues from humans when making foraging decisions in urban environments, and that they find human gaze aversive,” researchers wrote in the paper published The Royal Society.

Researchers put 250g bags of chips on the ground and tested how long it took for herring gulls to swoop down and take them and timed how long it took before the gull took its first peck. Half the time they faced the gull head on and the other half of the time they looked away.

Kirsty Pollard, the Development Manager for Durham Wildlife Trust, thinks that the study was just some common sense, saying: “Gulls are opportunistic feeders, but they can be quite big, especially to children. They are only watching to find an opportunity to take your food.

“Don’t be silly and try to intimidate them, they are wild animals after all.”

Some of the best tips the trust was able to give, was not to drop wasted food, do not feed human food to birds, and try to eat away from where the birds are congregating.