Stare Seagulls Out If You Want To Save Your Food Says Researcher

Cameron Frew

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I’ll never forget the time I was attacked by a seagull.

I was walking through the town centre on my way to work. It was around 8.30 – so I stopped in Greggs to pick myself up a roll ‘n’ bacon – bacon roll for those south of Hadrian’s Wall.

As I walked out of the shop, roll-in-hand and mouth watering, I felt a violent flapping at the back of my head. I turned round and was tasked with a hungry seagull, violently pecking at my breakfast and refusing to beat it, despite my hysterical floundering and squealing.

So, I welcome any tips that’ll help me in my defence against the dark airborne forces of the seaside.


As per The Guardian, Madeleine Goumas, a postgraduate researcher from the University Of Exeter, visited a number of UK seaside towns such as Falmouth, St Ives and Newquay to conduct an experiment.

She’d place a bag of chips about an arm’s length away from her and time how long it would take for a seagull to swoop down and nick some. For half of the tests, she wouldn’t look at the birds; but for the other half, she’d lock eyes with them and stare them down.

According to her study, published in Biology Letters, staring at seagulls lessens the chance of them stealing your food.

Goumas explains: 

We found that they are less likely to approach food when they are being watched. Sometimes they would jump and stop dead when they realised they were being watched. Others, meanwhile, skirted the food or meandered around in elaborate paths as if choosing a moment to strike.

According to Goumas’ study, the gulls took 21 seconds longer on average when they were being looked at.


Goumas continues:

The effect was clearer with some individuals than others. For the most part the gulls were wary of me when I was watching them, but there were a few individuals that were quick to approach even when I was looking at them. When we do see gulls snatching food from people they tend to come from behind and the people they take food from usually have no idea it is about to happen.

People can take steps to prevent it. When you eat, being against a wall that blocks a gull’s access from behind, or just keeping an eye out, being more vigilant, reduces your chances of having your food taken.

Seagulls may be pests, but at the end of the day, they’re just animals looking for food. So, if you, like me, have a traumatic experience, don’t do what this man did after a seagull stole his chips.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Topics: Animals, News, UK


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Stare seagulls out to save your snacks, researcher says

  2. Biology Letters - The Royal Society Publishing

    Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction

Cameron Frew
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