St Ives gives its seagulls the bird: Cornish resort takes action as excited scavengers swoop on trippers' packed lunches

THE SIGNS on the promenade in St Ives, Cornwall, hint at dark forces in the skies above, writes Rhys Williams. 'It would be much appreciated if you could refrain from feeding the seagulls, as they are becoming a nuisance'. It would only take Alfred Hitchcock to hover by an ice-cream van in the background for the terror of The Birds to be complete.

'We've had no reports of anybody being attacked yet,' Mike Foxley, Penwith District Council's tourism and marketing officer, said yesterday. 'But the council decided it would be a sensible preventative measure.'

The problem, Mr Foxley explained, went back to the council's decision at this time last year to change the Cornish town's refuse receptacles from the traditional black plastic bags to wheelie-bins.

'The gulls used to rip open the black bags and get their food out. When we switched to the plastic wheelie-bins, they could no longer get inside and so they started pestering people as they sat around the harbour.'

Each summer tens of thousands of packed lunches accompany their owners on the benches that line St Ives's crescent- shaped harbour.

Mr Foxley said the gulls swooped 'excited by the plentiful and free supply' on offer. 'People come specially with bags of seed to feed the birds and it only encourages them, you know.'

(Photograph omitted)