Urbanisation and behaviour in herring gulls

Herring gull

Project CGull seeks to understand the causes and consequences of urban life in a generalist seabird. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) are widespread in coastal and estuarine areas across the UK, but their overall population is on a steep downward trajectory. Despite this, these birds are an increasingly common sight in urban areas, including here in Cornwall where our experiments are conducted. Gulls often breed and forage in coastal towns, raising important questions about how their behaviour and ecology may differ from that of gulls in more traditional environments.

Herring gulls are often widely disliked by the public, particularly because of their feeding behaviour. These gulls scavenge discarded litter and sometimes even take food from people’s hands. We seek to understand the nature of herring gulls’ interactions with humans and the urban environment. We ask questions about whether gulls use cues from humans when making foraging decisions, how gulls perceive novelty, and whether juvenile gulls learn to eat the same foods as their parents. We hope that a better understanding of herring gull behaviour can inform policies regarding conservation and management.