How To Keep Seagulls From Stealing Your Food, According To Science

Seagulls may look picturesque when soaring majestically above the ocean, but when they're on the ground, they're more like winged vermin. They're noisy, pesty, and have no apparent sense of geography since they can often be found congregating far from any ocean. Parking lots are a preferred hangout of theirs — according to Mental Floss, this is because they're what is known as "opportunistic feeders," and they'd just as soon go dumpster diving as fish for their food.

What they really like to chow down upon, however, is other people's food, as many seaside (and parking lot) picnickers have found out to their dismay. If this has ever happened to you, you'll be glad to know that scientific research has finally come up with a way to save your snack from a seagull attack: stare at the flying food thieves, since eye contact apparently deters them.

How this gull deterrent was determined

Scientists at Exeter University's Center for Ecology and Conservation conducted several studies on seagulls — both old ones and young ones (birds, that is as we didn't inquire into the researcher's ages). These studies were meant to look into human/gull interactions, specifically as these revolved around food (via Fox News). In one experiment, it was determined that gulls who were tempted with an open bag of chips (French fries to us Americans) took, on average, 21 seconds longer to approach the bag if a human was watching. What's more, most gulls, if watched, would not even bother with the bag at all, since 47 birds out of 74 tested just flew away hungry.

Madeleine Goumas, lead author of the study detailing the gull experiment's findings, offered the following sage advice: "By keeping an eye on gulls, people could potentially save their lunch while reducing negative encounters with this rapidly declining species." There is one caveat, however: In order to protect your food, you've got to stay alert at all times. The research team found that once they turned their attention away from the gulls, those birds would swoop in within seconds. So when dining out of doors, don't be gullible! Keep your eye on the birdie if you don't want to lose your lunch.