Multiple times that I’ve gone to San Francisco Giants games, the seagulls sensed when the game was ending so they could pick up food. https://youtu.be/LPra_ZfwanU

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    $\begingroup$ People give off many cues that are intelligible to animals: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clever_Hans $\endgroup$
    – J--
    Dec 12, 2018 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure why this is receiving close votes for "opinion-based." It's not the best written question, but it's interesting and, IMHO, on topic here. The current answer should provide context for how this question can easily be answered appropriately. I hope the current answer poster provides additional resources to support his/her answer or that someone else provides some strong support for how bird behavior can be affected by human cues. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2018 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist how could it be better written? $\endgroup$
    – Curious
    Dec 14, 2018 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Austin. Typically a number of folks here don't like fun and colorful titles and prefer more strictly "scientific" language to be used both in the title and post. The post is also very short, which likely triggered it to show up in the low-quality review queue. I like fun titles (especially when relevant), but I would suggest you expand your post by 1) indicating your own research effort on the subject (show us you tried to look something up on your own), and 2) you can turn your video into a gif to provide directly here by typing "gif" between "www." and "youtube" using your video's link. $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2018 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ I have a seagull-level understanding of baseball, but in the linked video I can see large parts of empty sitting area empty of people but with plenty of garbage. Seagulls don't need to understand the game to see a potential for food at this moment. $\endgroup$
    – Pere
    Apr 10, 2020 at 21:46

1 Answer 1


Many animals, particularly some birds, are smarter than we give them credit for. Corvids, for example, are known to not only use tools, but are capable of planning and understanding some cause-and-effect scenarios that require patience.

I know practically nothing about baseball, but if it's like any other human gathering, there are probably a lot of clues that the birds learn:

  • Noise levels. Big events often culminate in some big fanfare with noise (cheering, music, etc.). If the game changes audibly near the end, you can bet the birds have noticed.
  • Motion/activity: Any large gathering I've ever gone to often has a small percentage of people leaving early because they want to avoid the crowd or traffic. I'd expect a close-scored game has fewer people leaving, but chances are good that as enough people start getting up to leave, it's another signal the birds can use.
  • Discarded food: Aside from getting up to leave, toward the end of an event many people will start discarding snacks and drinks. Hopefully in the correct bin, but often just on the ground (humans are messy -- which seagulls love). An increased number of people tossing garbage into bins (and missing or they start overflowing) signals a few gulls that there's scraps to be found.
  • Temporal. If these events happen regularly, or even irregularly, the birds associate it with food. People filling a stadium or parking lot, playing music, buying food (birds do have a sense of smell, though not as developed as mammals), etc. The birds over time learn: Increased human activity at this location results in more food some hours later.

Gulls are very gregarious, and notice when just one bird has found a morsel. As soon as a few birds get the first discards, the rest of the flock notices and starts to mobilize; circling and calling.

I would argue that the birds don't really know when a game or event is about to end, but they are adept at reading their environment, even if it's an urban one.

Per @theforestecologist's comment, references are requested. While I do not have a reference for each specific behavior described above, the following list covers avian intelligence generally, learning and problem-solving, and physiological adaptations. Many of the described behaviors are products of associative learning and elaborate communication, traits that gulls exhibit in other activities such as dropping clams from heights.


  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer. However, please provide support for your claims. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2018 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist I've added some references which I believe support the claims.My answer is largely based on my own ornithological studies, albeit at a non-professional level. $\endgroup$
    – JYelton
    Dec 14, 2018 at 4:26

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