It is one of the few animals that learns from the behavior of a completely different species in terms of food preferences.
Seagulls are well known for their taste for human food and, above all, for their ability to steal sandwiches, hamburgers or desserts from people who visit the beaches and boardwalks. However, the reasons why these birds choose certain foods over others has caused some debate among ornithologists.
In this context, a team of researchers from the University of Sussex (United Kingdom) has deciphered how these birds choose what type of food to steal, discovering that this feature, as annoying as it can be, is a intelligence sign.
As detailed by the researchers in an article published in the journal Biology Letters, seagulls have the ability to learn and apply knowledge acquired by observing the behavior of humans.
To test this hypothesis, the experts sat on the Brighton (England) seafront near herring gulls and ate crisps from blue and green bags. Then, they placed two bags of the same colors near the birds to test their preferences.
According to the results obtained, the seagulls observed the behavior of the human and in the 95% of the cases chose the package of the same color than the one the volunteer had consumed, which suggests that these birds not only have the ability to identify and compare objects in their environment; but also to make decisions from experience and the knowledge of others, a sign of intelligence.
For his part, Paul Graham, co-author of the study, pointed out that, although it is common for animals to learn from each other and reproduce some behaviors, “rarely” did they see “animals that learned from a totally different species when it comes to food preferences”. .
These findings, the scientists say, suggest that herring gulls are an intelligent and versatile predator that have successfully adapted to urban environments thanks to their observation skills and behavioral flexibility.
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