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Once described as “the size of pterodactyls” by former deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, seagulls in Rome mainly survive off the scraps left behind by tourists, restaurants and bars.
Italy’s lockdown has kept people off the streets and businesses closed for two months, depriving seagulls of their main food source.
To survive, seagulls have started to hunt rats, pigeons and other small birds.
“They are going back to being predators,” Bruno Cignini, a zoologist from the University Tor Vergata, told the Corriere della Sera.
“They are catching mostly pigeons but also swallows and blackbirds. They’re also going after fish in the Tiber. Luckily, they are also eating rats. Animals are changing their habits as we change ours.”
Hunting and killing is not a particularly new trend for seagulls. On occasion, they have taken food straight out of people’s hands when they have the chance, as Neil Fraser in Aberdeen attested to last year.
“The seagull flew in from behind me,” Fraser, a manager at the Old Schoolhouse pub, told the New York Times. A seagull had swooped down and snatched his bacon-and-chicken sandwich from his hand. “The sandwich and the seagull were both gone.”
Just a few weeks ago, a camera on the island of Skomer, in Wales, captured footage of a great black-backed gull eating an entire rabbit whole.
Rome has a notorious trash problem, occasionally accumulating so much garbage that the city cannot clear it out fast enough. The trash sometimes even rots.
While the situation is unbearable for people, it is a haven for wildlife. In addition to the incredible seagull population, Rome sees wild boars and coypu, a South American rodent, roaming their streets and sewers.