Seagulls have an aversion to the human gaze

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Screaming seagull

Researchers have decided that seagulls have an aversion to the human gaze. They approached herring gulls both when looking at the ground or looking directly at the birds. When they were approached by people looking at the ground, rather than at the gull, they moved away more slowly allowing the person to be two metres closer to them on average.

It didn’t make any difference whether it was a juvenile or a full adult gull. Therefore, it was deduced, that this trait is not a learned behaviour born out of years of negative interactions with people. It appears that they are born with this trait or they learn it very quickly.

Screaming seagull

Screaming seagull. Photo: Getty Images.

Herring gulls are spending increasing amounts of time foraging for food and breeding in urban areas. Therefore they have lots of interactions with people.

The study was conducted in Cornwall and targeted seagulls of four years of age and older as well as juvenile gulls born in the year of the study. Despite the species being in decline in the UK, they give the appearance that they are more commonplace in urban areas than they really are.

The purpose of the research was to try and improve conservation of this species of bird.

Comment: there is a considerable amount of conflict between humans and seagulls in the UK. Some people are reasonably sympathetic towards them but a lot are not and in coastal towns I think it is fair to say that you will see a considerable amount of animosity towards them because they divebomb people and steel ice cream from kids and chips from their parents. It is said that they do this because they are short of food due to the decline in the fishing industry throughout the UK. This in turn may be due to continental fishermen taking all the stock and European Union regulations restricting fishing.