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Data from: Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction

Cite this dataset

Goumas, Madeleine; Burns, Isabella; Kelley, Laura A.; Boogert, Neeltje J. (2019). Data from: Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction [Dataset]. Dryad.


Human-wildlife conflict is one of the greatest threats to species populations worldwide. One species facing national declines in the UK is the herring gull (Larus argentatus), despite an increase in numbers in urban areas. Gulls in urban areas are often considered a nuisance due to behaviours such as food-snatching. Whether urban gull feeding behaviour is influenced by human behavioural cues, such as gaze direction, remains unknown. We therefore measured the approach times of herring gulls to a food source placed in close proximity to an experimenter who either looked directly at the gull or looked away. We found that only 26% of targeted gulls would touch the food, suggesting that food-snatching is likely to be conducted by a minority of individuals. When gulls did touch the food, they took significantly longer to approach when the experimenter’s gaze was directed towards them compared to directed away. However, inter-individual behaviour varied greatly, with some gulls approaching similarly quickly in both treatments while others approached much more slowly when the experimenter was looking at them. These results indicate that reducing human-herring gull conflict may be possible through small changes in human behaviour, but will require consideration of behavioural differences between individual gulls.

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