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  1. ITV Report

Seagulls make the most of closing time

Most people have that favourite chippy they aim for at closing time, determined to get their coveted box of food.

But, incredibly, we're not alone, with new research showing a quite unexpected visitor joins us on the quest too - seagulls.

Scientists say the urban birds have adapted and learned when pubs close and where to find the best chip shops

Seagulls know when bars and pubs close and wait for food to be dropped, research has shown Credit: Steve Paston/PA

The clever gulls have learned to linger outside bars and eateries at chucking-out times because of the rich pickings discarded in the street.

And, research has shown the city-dwelling birds not only like their fish battered, but have also developed a taste for takeaway chicken and pork ribs.

It's not just fish the seagulls like - they've developed a taste for chicken and kebabs Credit: Chris Ison/EMPICS Sport

At around 10pm each night experts noticed the loud gulls will descent on spots where people tend to gather.

They often congregate on roofs, watching until food is dropped or left behind, then swooping in to grab the leftovers.

They start to congregate at about half past eight and their numbers are largest at about 9.45pm or 10pm.

A lot of the birds will sit up in safety on the roofs of shopping centres, where they can observe what is going on.

They wait for people to drop food, but we are getting increasing anecdotal evidence that they are coming down and taking it out of people's hands.

– Dr Chris Pawson, project leader, University of the West of England
"There is increasing anecdotal evidence that they are coming down and taking it out of people's hands." Credit: Stefan Sauer/DPA

The 18-month project also examined the contents of seagull nests in Bath, and revealed more than 40 bones - from road kill and junk food - along with plastic forks and spoons, cable ties, rubber bands and human hair.

We have seen them feeding their young entire chicken breasts. We have seen pieces of toast, entire sausages and pork ribs - a whole range of things.

We have seen similar behaviour before, at landfill sites. They know what time the rubbish trucks arrive at the landfill and follow them.

– Dr Chris Pawson, project leader, University of the West of England
Seagulls know where the best fish and chip places are to get the food they want Credit: CTK Photo/Libor Sojka

The observations are part of a joint research project by behavioural ecology and psychology students at UWE and the University of Middlesex.

They map, track and observe their behaviour at different sites in Bath as they interact with food sources, human neighbours and nesting sites.

The findings will help Bath and North East Somerset Council tackle the city's seagull problem.

Councillor Martin Veal, cabinet member for community services, said understanding the birds' behaviour is key to controlling their numbers.

There is very little existing research available on this subject," he said.

This will give us the opportunity to gather evidence at a scale that hasn't been possible before, providing a clear steer on future interventions.

– Councillor Martin Veal
Credit: picture alliance / Robert Schlesinger