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WATCH: Staring out seagulls is the secret to protecting your chips, scientists say

Glaring at seagulls makes them less likely to steal your food, according to a new study. University of Exeter researchers found on average the gulls took 21 seconds longer to approach the food if they were stared at. The would-be feathered thieves are more likely to strike when they can swoop in under the radar, avoiding the gaze of their victims, researchers say. Staring at the birds makes them less likely to steal your food, according to the new study. University of Exeter researchers put a bag of chips on the ground and tested how long it took herring gulls to approach when someone was watching them. They compared this to how long it took when the person looked away. The researchers attempted to test 74 gulls, but most flew away or would not approach. Only 27 approached the food, and 19 completed both the “looking at” and “looking away” tests. The findings focus on these 19 gulls. Lead author Madeleine Goumas, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus, said: “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. “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.” She added that the team did not look at why individual birds were so different, but it may have been because some might have had positive experiences of being fed by humans. “But it seems that a couple of very bold gulls might ruin the reputation of the rest,” she said.

Read More: The eyes have it: Staring at seagulls could stop them from stealing your chips

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