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Study Shows That Seagulls Have Learned When School Break Times Are

Tom Wood


Study Shows That Seagulls Have Learned When School Break Times Are

Researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered that seagulls have worked out what times schools have break time in order to maximise their chances of nicking a bit of free food.

Those pesky seagulls, eh? Not only are they incredibly annoying - and liable to drop something disgusting on your head at any moment - it now turns out that they're also smart and organised.

The birds have struck upon the schedules of human activity and lined them up with their foraging patterns in order to give themselves the best shot at picking up some human food.

The scientists from the West Country university discovered this intriguing - and more than slightly terrifying - information by strapping GPS locators to the backs of 12 seagulls and seeing what they did.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

They also observed the number of gulls present at three different sites; a school, a play park and a waste centre.

Their results showed that gull numbers increased in close relation to the break times at the school, as well as the closing and opening times of the waste centre.

In the public park, it was seemingly more to do with the availability of other food sources - things like earthworms and insects.

Basically, they've got us figured out.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The researchers published their findings in Ibis, the International Journal of Avian Science, arguing that they prove gulls have developed the flexibility to adapt their food-searching techniques to match our time.

That's probably why they're everywhere in cities and towns.

The study's lead author, Dr Anouk Spelt, said: "Our first day at the school, the students were excited to tell us about the gulls visiting their school at lunchtime.

"Indeed, our data showed that gulls were not only present in high numbers during lunchtime to feed on leftovers, but also just before the start of the school and during the first break when students had their snack."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

He continued: "Similarly, at the waste centre the gulls were present in higher numbers on weekdays when the centre was open and trucks were unloading food waste.

"Although everybody has experienced or seen gulls stealing food from people in parks, our gulls mainly went to park first thing in the morning, and this may be because earthworms and insects are present in higher numbers during these early hours."

Co-author Dr Shane Windsor added: "With this study in Bristol we have shown that gulls in cities are able to adapt their foraging schedule to make best use of food resources depending on their availability.

"Some gulls even used all three feeding grounds in the same day, suggesting they might track the availability to optimise their energy intake.

"These results highlight the behavioural flexibility of gulls and their ability to adapt to the artificial environments and time schedules of urban living."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News, Weird, Animals

Tom Wood
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