How it was told
Gulls are the scourge of many town centres and seaside promenades. A looming menace waiting to steal food from the unwitting. Many people have just accepted their threatening presence. A Hitchcockian gauntlet that must be run to enjoy a bag of chips.
But last week a study from the University of Exeter suggested there is a simple way to stave off the gulls: eye contact.
Media outlets across the country leapt on the potentially lunch-changing news, with the The Guardian reporting: “Giving marauding birds the eye makes them more wary of stealing food, study finds”. They even quoted Conservative mayor of Worcester Alan Amos, who told The Sun last month that it was time for a cull of nuisance gulls. He said: “We must kill the bloody things.”
The Independent – which posted a video of the staring experiment online – echoed The Guardian with its headline: “Staring down seagulls is the secret to protecting your chips from being snatched, scientists say”.
And the research was summed up by Mail Online in its report, which said: “In a study of herring gulls using a bag of chips as bait, almost a third of gulls didn’t dare touch it when a person was making eye contact, but would when they looked away.”
But is a stiff glare really enough to fight off a flock of hungry birds?