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Object neophilia in wild herring gulls in urban and rural locations

Cite this dataset

Inzani, Emma; Kelley, Laura; Boogert, Neetje (2022). Object neophilia in wild herring gulls in urban and rural locations [Dataset]. Dryad.


Living with increasing urbanisation and human populations requires resourcefulness and flexibility in wild animals’ behaviour. Animals have to adapt to anthropogenic novelty in habitat structure and resources that may not resemble, or be as beneficial as, natural resources. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) increasingly reside in towns and cities to breed and forage, yet how gulls are adjusting their behaviour to life in urban areas is not yet fully understood. This study investigated wild herring gulls’ responses to novel and common anthropogenic objects in urban and rural locations. We also examined whether gulls’ age influenced their object response behaviour. We found that, out of the 126 individual gulls presented with objects, 34% approached them. This suggests that the majority of targeted gulls were wary or lacked interest in the experimental set-up. Of the 43 gulls that approached the objects, we found that those tested in urban locations approached more slowly than their rural counterparts. Overall, gulls showed no preference for either novel or common anthropogenic objects, and age did not influence likelihood of approach, approach speed or object choice. Individuals paid most attention to the object they approached first, potentially indicative of individual preferences. Our findings indicate that most herring gulls are not as attracted to anthropogenic objects as anecdotal reports have suggested. Covering up obvious food rewards may thus help mitigate human-gull conflict over anthropogenic food sources.


Natural Environment Research Council, Award: 3337

Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowships, Award: NJB: DH140080

Royal Society Dorothy Hodgki, Award: LAK: DH160082