Scientists reveal that seagulls prefer food that has been handled by humans

They’re the thievers of food, the pinchers of chips, the scourge of the seaside skies.

Now scientists have revealed what we’ve always suspected — seagulls do prefer to eat food that has been handled by us hapless humans.

When the birds were presented with two identical food items — one of which they had seen a human holding — they were seen to peck at the handled food more.

This suggests that seagulls use human actions when deciding what to eat, the researchers concluded.

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They’re the thievers of food, the pinchers of chips, the scourge of the seaside skies. Now scientists have revealed what we’ve always suspected — seagulls do prefer to eat food that has been handled by us hapless humans. Pictured, a seagull seen in the middle of stealing chips

The findings of the study led by animal behaviour experts Laura Kelley and Madeleine Goumas of the University of Exeter builds on previous work which found that staring at seagulls makes them less likely to steal food.

‘Our findings suggest that gulls are more likely to approach food that they have seen people drop or put down,’ said Dr Kelly.

‘So they may associate areas where people are eating with an easy meal.’

‘This highlights the importance of disposing of food waste properly, as inadvertently feeding gulls reinforces these associations.’

The researchers had set out to determine whether gulls were simply attracted to the sight of food, or if people’s actions could draw their attention towards an item.

They said that their findings show that cues given by humans may play an important part in the way that gulls find food.

According to Ms Goumas, this could ‘partly explain why gulls have been successful in colonising urban areas.’

When the birds were presented with two identical food items ¿ one of which they had seen a human holding, like pictured ¿ they were seen to peck at the handled food more

When the birds were presented with two identical food items — one of which they had seen a human holding, like pictured — they were seen to peck at the handled food more

The findings of the study led by animal behaviour experts Laura Kelley and Madeleine Goumas of the University of Exeter builds on previous work which found that staring at seagulls makes them less likely to steal food. Pictured, a seagull steals an ice cream cone from a tourist

The findings of the study led by animal behaviour experts Laura Kelley and Madeleine Goumas of the University of Exeter builds on previous work which found that staring at seagulls makes them less likely to steal food. Pictured, a seagull steals an ice cream cone from a tourist

In their study, the researchers approached individual Herring gulls in Cornish towns — including Falmouth and Penzance — and placed two upturned buckets on the ground in front of them, each of which covered a wrapped blueberry flapjack.



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