Rare Saga

The unexplored saga story world.

What is the meaning of life? – Go down to the dock and get some fries!

In 2011, Hannah Haxford and her husband were walking in Bridlington, a seaside town, when something amusing happened.

Her husband bought a packet of fries. Suddenly a fearless herring gull swooped down towards them. In Hannah’s words, it was “bold as brass.” Her husband threw a couple of fries toward the herring gull, and the hungry bird readily caught a fry in its beak.

The photo of a fry-snatching gull, captured in 2011 by photographer Hannah Huxford, quickly went viral and is now featured in a Google billboard campaign. (Image credit: Courtesy of Hannah Huxford)

Hannah quickly took out her iPhone 3G to take a picture of the gull, snapping more than one shot. The best one was the following:

It captured the moment the herring gull was about to swallow a fry.

Soon, the photo went viral. Major media outlets vied to report on it:

The Grimsby Evening Telegraph made the seagull eating chips its Photo of the Day.

It later appeared in The Daily Express…

The BBC even did a special report on it…

And so, the fry-eating seagull became an overnight sensation.

That seemed to be the end of it.

But on March 22, 2021, Hannah reposted the photo on her Instagram account. She then received a strange private message, which she assumed was spam and ignored. Some time later, Hannah received an email saying the sender worked for a design company in London that wanted to buy the rights to the photo for a billboard ad. Hannah agreed, signed confidentiality agreements, and licensed out the photo. Soon after, she saw huge billboard ads for Google featuring her photo, across England and Ireland.

Naturally Hannah was delighted beyond words. After all, who could have imagined a spur-of-the-moment snap taken on a phone 10 years ago would end up on billboards?

Who knows what the gull in the photo would think if he saw the billboard. He’d probably bring extra fries home to share with his family: “I made it big today – dinner’s on me!”

At some point, fries became inextricably linked with seagulls. Seagulls even have their own catchphrase now: “Let’s go down to the dock and scrounge some fries!”

Seagulls scavenging leftovers from human food trays at dock are one thing, but some go too far, brazenly stealing fries straight from people’s hands or even shoplifting.

Why are seagulls so obsessed with fries?

First, Gulls, display competitive and aggressive behavior when it comes to protecting their food. They possess the advantage of being adaptable eaters, readily consuming a wide range of foods. A fascinating sight is observing them strategically flying behind individuals who are eating, swooping down from behind to snatch food directly from the unsuspecting person’s hands.

An illustrative example of their food protectiveness can be found in Southwest Harbor, ME, where “The Ocenarium,” an aquatic museum, is located. The museum’s parking lots were constantly strewn with discarded clam shells and crab remains, as gulls would drop them from above to crack open the shells and savor the soft parts, leaving behind a mess. To tackle this issue, a creative solution was implemented – gull silhouettes were painted on the parking lot surface. The gulls, mistaking these silhouettes for other gulls in flight, refrained from dropping their food, fearing competition. As a result, the parking lot became remarkably cleaner with minimal shell debris.

In summary, gulls demonstrate their competitiveness and resourcefulness in securing food, and the gull silhouette experiment effectively eliminated the litter problem in “The Ocenarium’s” parking lot.

And fries are ubiquitous at the seaside, and easy picking.

According to a 2020 study published in Royal Society Open Science, researchers found that seagulls are more attracted to objects handled by humans versus untouched objects. In other words, seagulls interpret human handling of items as cues for finding food.

The simpler explanation is that seagulls, like humans, think food tastes better when sampled from someone else’s mouth!

If you want to deter seagulls from your fries, here’s a simple trick: stare them down. Here’s a scientist demonstrating:

In 2019, researchers reported in Biology Letters that gulls can swiftly swoop in to steal unattended food. But if you keep your eyes fixed on them, they may quickly lose their nerve and sneak away to find easier pickings.

If you haven’t tried staring down a seagull before, you can practice here.

Now “Let’s go down to the dock and scrounge some fries” has new meaning in life.