Chunks of beef and bread fill the air. Cries of “oh my God”, triumphant squawks and a ripple of laughter ring out at Bristol Harbourside.
A seagull has swooped for a cheeseburger on an outdoor table at Welsh Back’s Three Brothers restaurant, before landing with its plunder on an electricity box in the neighbouring beer garden of The Apple.
This was a mistake — it should have flown further. Sensing their opportunity, two other gulls attempt to seize the burger themselves. A flurry of furiously flapping wings and flying food ensues, then calm returns a few seconds later.
Almost entirely devoured, the burger’s only remnants are a jalapeno and a few small morsels scattered atop the box.
Five minutes later, a gull dives for a cheeseburger on another table at the restaurant. It is fended away by the man eating the burger — only for another gull to successfully steal his girlfriend’s vegan burger within seconds.
The popular Three Brothers, which serves its burgers from a moored boat, says the attentions of gulls have recently become “an absolute nightmare”. When the outdoor seating area is busy, they have been swooping for food three or four times a day.
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The double burger snatch happened shortly before 8pm yesterday (May 31) — less than two weeks after a gull stole a burger from a man’s hands on Broadmead, prompting another man to reportedly hit the bird with his walking stick.
But there was no such violent response from Simone de Brouwer when she fell victim to the first of yesterday’s swoops at Three Brothers.
The London-based teacher, visiting Bristol on holiday, said: “I was having the fries first and the burger disappeared. I don’t know if I have words for it. I was just stunned.
“I wasn’t irritated for myself but it must be annoying for the people who work here. They said it had happened a few times in the last week.”
Pointing to a table near where the gulls had fought for the food, she added: “I’m glad I wasn’t sitting there when they were all going for it. It was flying everywhere.”
Simone, 29, laughed: “It’s a story to tell my friends. I can ring my mum about it.”
The teacher, who received a new burger on the house, said she was relieved the gulls had not gone for her Sour Suzy beer.
“It wouldn’t stop me coming here again,” she said. “I feel it could happen anywhere. I would feel more worried if I was eating fish and chips.”
Gulls may be well-known for their keenness on fish, but their recent penchant for burgers was once again in evidence as Bristol Live’s interview with Simone was interrupted by another swoop.
The burger was snatched from the table of students Jack and Nina, who did not wish to give their surnames.
Jack, 19, said: “The funny thing is it was a vegan burger. It was my girlfriend Nina’s.
“The first gull came over for my cheeseburger and I brushed it away with my hand. I looked back down to carry on eating my burger.
“Then about 10 seconds later the second one came and I didn’t see it, but it picked up my girlfriend’s burger in its mouth and it f****d off.”
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Nina joked: “I was really annoyed that my boyfriend didn’t protect it a bit more.”
Business student Jack defended himself: “I didn’t have a chance. It came and it went.”
The couple, who live in the area but were visiting Three Brothers for the first time, had different views on addressing the recent seagull issues.
Jack said: “I would shoot them — what else would you do?”
Nina responded: “No, it’s food and they are hungry. It’s part of nature. And it’s a plant-based burger, so they can enjoy it. At least the bird got a dinner.”
Jack added: “It was actually quite funny. It’s not something that happens all the time. It’s a story to tell, and it wasn’t my burger.”
A polite member of staff approached and apologised to Nina, who opted against a replacement burger but received a discount on the bill.
The restaurant supervisor Andy Vincent said Three Brothers has been considering options to stop food being targeted by gulls, including a “plastic hanging seagull” which, according to reports online, may act as a deterrent.
The 28-year-old added: “It’s an absolute nightmare. We have to replace the food each time and it’s obviously not great for us as a business. Sometimes it happens three or four times a day.
“We do try to warn people, but obviously the seagulls are pretty fearless. It’s really hard to keep on top of it when it’s busy. People leave, there are dirty plates on the table, and if you’re not there to collect them in 30 seconds, the gulls will swoop in and make a mess everywhere. The pigeons will get the mess on the floor and then they start getting confident as well.”
Andy believes overflowing bins are also an issue which can lead to seagulls getting a taste for people’s food.
“It’s about cleanliness,” he said. “They are an issue everywhere. You get people trying to feed them because it’s fun, but you just think, ‘Can you not do that?'”
The supervisor thinks the rise in takeaways and people eating outside during the coronavirus pandemic may also be a factor in the increased gull activity.
We returned to Simone for her verdict after she was finally able to enjoy her cheeseburger.
She said: “It was really good in the end. I would recommend it.
“The staff were really good. They got onto it really quickly. I had the new one within a few minutes.”
Simone, originally from New Zealand, says the incident has not put her off Bristol.
“I have been for a giant walk today in the sun. Bristol is beautiful.”
What do you think the solution is? Let us know in the comments below.