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Seagulls know when you look – learn

Now that Labor Day weekend is behind us, the beach season is officially over. But the best beach threat has a year-round job that bothers people who like to hang out near the sea.

Seagulls will stop at nothing to steal your fries (or your dog), but fortunately, new research is perfecting the basic technique of protecting your food from beach birds.

When you think of a seagull, you are likely to imagine a seagull herring. Gray-white birds land on pink legs, coloring the shoreline and gliding over the heads of beachgoers. Sometimes they dive into the water to bury ocean creatures ̵

1; and more than sometimes the birds will also look for “prey” from involuntary people who are just trying to enjoy a day at sea.

But researchers have a new trick on how to stop a seagull from bombarding your lunch: Look directly at the bird.

Yes, the way to protect yourself and your food from these notorious cleaners is to enter a race with an enemy.

Herring gulls know when to look at them, according to a recent study of birds. Scientists discover this disturbing ability when they try to measure how birds react to humans based on how built up the surrounding area is. It is easier to get close to a city gull than to its rural counterpart, their investigation suggests.

But in both urban and rural areas, the seagulls fled the scene earlier if one looked at them.

The researchers studied 155 seagulls, including juveniles and adults in each type of environment. The scientists approached the seagulls while either looking directly at them or facing them, while not taking their eyes off the ground.

The answer to fleeing from a vigilant man seems to be innate: New gulls are just as likely to respond to the human eye as older birds, the researchers found.

When seagulls are not observed directly, they allow people to approach an average of 6.5 feet before leaving. For city gulls, the effect of not being observed was even stronger; people who are not watching could approach the city’s residents more than 8 feet away.

The study was published online on September 4 and will appear in the October 2020 issue of the journal Behavior of animals.

Refine the process – The new discoveries are a continuation of previous work that looks at how seagulls react to people’s watchful eye.

A 2019 study, led by the same researcher, PhD student at the University of Exeter, Madeleine Gumas, explores a similar idea. In this study, researchers either looked at birds or looked away. They found that watching a bird eat a bag of french fries shortens the time it takes for a bird to fly away.

The new study has a similar result, improving the method to direct eye contact to the ground.

“In our new study, the experimenter approached while facing the seagull and only changed the direction of his eyes – either looking down or towards the seagull,” Gumas said in a statement.

“We were interested to find that seagulls pay special attention to the direction of the human eye and that this applies to both minors and adults – so their aversion to the human eye is not the result of months or years of negative interaction with humans. . “

Birds in the human world – Birds are amazingly good at adapting to the human environment. Seagulls, pigeons and crows have come to live among humans using various survival mechanisms.

The seagulls have evolved big brains for better orientation in urban landscapes and other human-dominated spaces. Meanwhile, the pigeons rely on a force in numbers a strategy that is reproduced more often to ensure that their young survive. These findings appeared in a March 2020 study.

We could see more of these curious interactions in the future. Herring gulls are becoming more and more present in urban areas, researchers say, making their interaction with humans inevitable. And despite your personal feelings for these annoying birds, work can ultimately help protect them.

“The growing number of herring gulls in urban areas may make them look more common than they actually are,” Gumas said.

“The species is actually in decline in the United Kingdom, and we hope our ongoing research on seagull interactions will contribute to conservation efforts.”

Summary: With the growing human population and the growth of urban settlements, wildlife is often exposed to humans. Because humans can be a threat, a neutral presence, or a food source, animals will benefit from an ongoing assessment of the potential risk they pose in order to respond appropriately. Herring gulls, Larus argentatus, are increasingly breeding and producing food in urban areas and thus have many opportunities to interact with humans. We recently found that herring seagulls take longer to get close to food when observed by humans. However, it is not known whether aversion to the human eye stems from human experience and whether individual differences in response result from differential exposure. Here we tested whether the responses of herring gulls to the human eye differ depending on their age class and the urbanization of their habitat. We measured the distance to start the seagull’s flight when an experimenter approached with either a direct or averted gaze. Neither the age class of the seagull nor the urbanization have a significant impact on the effect of the human gaze on the flight start distance. However, because young people have recently reacted strongly to the experimenter’s gaze, aversion to the human gaze may not require the development of widespread human exposure. Seagulls in urban areas may be approached more closely than those in rural areas, in line with the findings of other species. These results indicate that glare is present at the beginning of development and that human exposure may affect seagulls’ responses to the perceived risk from humans. The study of the processes that generate individual differences in human responses will give a further idea of ​​the interactions between man and wildlife and the effects of urbanization.

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