Study suggests that gulls can forage for food as intelligently as parrots, and are just as clever as their counterparts in intelligence.

  •  Gulls could be as smart as parrots when it comes to getting a hold of food
  •  The birds are renowned for snatching chips from unwary visitors to the seaside
  •  They analysed wild ring-billed gulls to see if they could ‘work out’ a simple test

Study has shown that gulls can be just as clever as parrots at getting food.

Researchers at University of Newfoundland, Canada, found that the birds are well-known for taking chips from unsuspecting visitors.

They analysed wild ring-billed gulls, pictured – which can sometimes be found in Britain – to see if they could ‘work out’ that pulling on a string would draw a small piece of sausage out of a clear box. 

The test was passed by 25% of those who attempted it three times, and only 1% got it right the first time.

Picture: A seagull amid ducks in water. Gulls could be as smart as parrots when it comes to getting a hold of food, a study has found

Picture: A seagull amid ducks in water. Study has shown that Gulls can be just as clever as their parrot counterparts when it comes getting food.

Perching birds and parrots are the most successful species for this task. They are well-known for their intelligence.

Jessika Lamarre, author of the report published in the Royal Society journal, said it’s the first example of a waterbird solving the string-pull test.

The most successful species for the job are parrots or perching birds, who are known for their intelligence.

Ms Lamarre said: ‘String-pulling is among the most widespread cognitive tasks used to test problem-solving skills in mammals and birds.

‘The task requires animals to comprehend that pulling on a non-valuable string moves an otherwise inaccessible food reward to within their reach.

‘Ring-billed gulls are thus the first waterbirds shown to be capable of solving a horizontal configuration of the string-pull test using a single-baited string.

‘This finding indicates that gulls, and possibly other waterbirds, are well-suited to engage in cognitive tasks and are thus candidates for more advanced puzzles.’

Although gulls and waterbirds have been known to employ bait and tools to lure prey, cognition has not been extensively studied.

Although the ring-billed Gull is most common in North America and Canada, it was first documented in Britain in 1970.

Each year only a handful of individuals are found, which is drastically less than the Herring gull or Common gull.