Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Seagulls pick up on human cues to find food


Photo of feeding seagulls by Kenny Louie from Vancouver, Canada / CC BY (; via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever experienced seagulls seemingly begging for food from you? It is not your imagination. A new study finds that seagulls really do prefer foods that have been handled by humans. The study conducted Madeleine Goumas (University of Exeter, UK) examined whether seagulls picked up on cues from humans or were simply looking for food.

While standing about 8 meters away from herring gulls, the team placed two plastic-wrapped pancakes about the same distance away from the investigator. The investigator then pretended to eat one of the pancakes before walking away from both the uneaten and handled pancakes. Interestingly, 19 out of 24 birds that decided to snack on a pancake chose the one the investigator touched. These findings suggest that seagulls may be using human cues to locate tasty treats. These findings also suggest that humans can impact the nutritional health of these birds.


New Scientist

M Goumas, NJ Boogert, LA Kelley. Urban herring gulls use human behavioural cues to locate food. Royal Society Open Science. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.191959


Categories: Diet and Exercise, Intelligence and Neuroscience

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