Of the things you need to know in life, this is a biggie. Anything that helps protect my consumption of the venerable potato is worthy of study.

Boffins at Exeter University have determined that herring gulls are more cautious about stealing your chips if they’re being watched. Alas they are career criminals and will most likely still steal them, but they’ll take 21 seconds longer on average to do so than those gulls that aren’t being watched.

As is typical of the criminal fraternity, a lot of them were uncooperative:

The scientists tried to test 74 gulls, but most would not participate.

Only 19 of them of them actively participated in the “looking at” and “looking away” test. I’d suggest they were just the lackeys and those higher up in the criminal network — the Godfeathers perhaps — avoided being linked to any crime.

The University of Exeter researchers said the study, conducted in coastal towns in Cornwall and published in the journal Biology Letters, shows how people might be able to reduce food-snatching by modifying their own behaviour.

Indeed, if I find myself in locomotion with a potato I now constantly crane my neck so I can lock eyes with these bewinged reprobates. This buys me 21 seconds to employ the “arm-over defence” as taught to me by Master Po during my stay at the Shaolin temple.