Researchers have come up with a useful tactic to deter seagulls from stealing your picnic sandwiches or making a grab for your French fries. The advice is to stare at the birds to prevent any food theft. This invaluable tip comes from a study from the University of Exeter in the UK. Researchers conducted tests at a beach on the effects of staring at the sea birds. They put a bag of fries on the ground and monitored how long it took gulls to approach and snatch the fries without a researcher looking at the birds. They then carried out the same test, but this time a researcher made eye contact as a bird approached. The birds took an extra 21 seconds to approach the food when a researcher stared at them.
The researchers concluded that the seagulls were deterred by the human gaze. Only 26 per cent of the birds made an attempt to take the researchers' food with the eye contact. Three-quarters of the birds just stood still and looked at the food or flew away. Lead researcher Madeleine Goumas said: "I noticed that gulls seemed to have a bad reputation for food-snatching, but I saw it happen quite rarely. When I did see it happen, gulls often swooped in from behind, and the people were completely oblivious. 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."