1. ITV Report

The seagull stare-off: How to protect your food on Channel Island beaches

Staring out a seagull is the secret to protecting your food, says researchers. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Hiding your picnic from pesky seagulls is common practice for Channel Islanders but now researchers at the University of Exeter think they have found a deterrent.

The old-fashioned method of a staring contest.

Scientists believe the birds are more likely to strike when they can swoop in under the radar, avoiding the gaze of their victims.

University of Exeter researchers put a bag of chips on the ground and tested how long it took herring gulls to approach when someone was watching them.

They compared this to how long it took when the person looked away.

On average the gulls took 21 seconds longer to approach the food they often cheekily swipe from unsuspecting snackers while they were being stared at.

The researchers attempted to test 74 gulls, but most flew away or would not approach.

Only 27 approached the food, and 19 completed both the “looking at” and “looking away” tests. The findings focus on these 19 gulls.

Gulls are often seen as aggressive and willing to take food from humans, so it was interesting to find that most wouldn’t even come near during our tests.

– Madeleine Goumas, Lead Author Exeter University Research
  • ITV News' Fran Le Noury went to test the theory...