Study: Staring at seagulls could prevent them from snatching your food

(Creative Commons)

(Creative Commons)

British researchers have found that staring at seagulls could keep them from snatching your food.

Scientists at the University of Exeter placed a bag of chips on the ground and tested how long it took seagulls to approach both when a human was and wasn’t watching. They conducted the study in coastal towns.

Out of 74 gulls, the researchers say that most flew away or didn’t get near, while 27 approached and 19 completed what they dubbed the “looking at” and “looking away” tests.

The result? The gulls, on average, took 21 seconds longer to approach the food when being stared at, according to the study.

“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,” lead author Madeleine Goumas said in a news release. “Of those that did approach, most took longer when they were being watched. Some wouldn’t even touch the food at all, although others didn’t seem to notice that a human was staring at them.”

Perhaps a trick for Jersey Shore beachgoers and boardwalk strollers?

The release of the study comes just as Ocean City, New Jersey begins to use raptors to scare away aggressive seagulls. Officials say it’s been working.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.