Ear: Gulls

There's a new U.K. gull study, SmithsonianMag.com reports, inspired by the birds' aggressiveness (bit.ly/gullstare). In the U.K. it's illegal to kill gulls, so they are free to pester people while they're eating, and snatch food that looks appealing.

Various tactics have been attempted to keep the gulls at bay, but the birds were undeterred, and possibly amused. So, researchers from the University of Exeter tried a novel approach to tackle the problem.

They visited coastal towns and tempted gulls with a bag of french fries. Once a gull noticed the tasty treat, the scientist would stare the bird down to see if it would stay away from the food.

Surprisingly, it seemed to work — about two-thirds of the time, anyway. Seventy-four birds noticed the bag of goodies; of those, just 27 (36 percent) went for it, despite the stares. "It seems that just watching the gulls will reduce the chance of them snatching your food," the researchers concluded.

So, next time a gull zeroes in on your lunch, look him sternly in the eye, and see if it works. It might not hurt to repeat "'The Birds' is only a movie" to yourself several times, though.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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