Black-headed Gulls in urban environments are better at responding to human foods than their rural counterparts, shows new research in Bird Study, the Journal of the British Trust for Ornithology.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool used white bread and fresh sprats as examples of ‘anthropogenic’ and ‘natural’ food sources, to demonstrate that the preference for human food increases with the level of urban development.
Across the 11 study sites on the Merseyside coastline, the selection of natural food decreased from 80% of trials at the most rural site at Banks to 5% at the most urban site at Crosby indicating that Black-headed Gulls prefer the food types most likely to be found in their immediate environment.
Black-headed Gulls became quicker at responding to the foods supplied by the researchers during the course of the study further demonstrating that gulls can adapt to human activity. Urban birds were more tolerant of humans to begin with, allowing these city slickers to take advantage of ‘fast food’ more quickly than their country cousins.