A DRAMA of Hitchcockian proportions has been unfolding this past week. The villains of the piece? Seagulls.

Long the scourge of trips to the seaside in hunt of fish suppers and double nuggets, the demon of the skies is spreading its wings.

Not content with ruining leisure time on the promenade, seagulls have earmarked football games as a source of rich pickings, with fans at Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park warned that anyone caught feeding seagulls will be ejected from the stadium.

The Dumfries side issued the warning before their first home league game against Dunfermline yesterday. It comes after complaints about mess and nuisance caused by the birds at the ground.

Now the club has appealed to fans to help tackle the issue by putting any waste food in bins provided. This is a laudable plan, but I can’t imagine these feathered fiends are averse to a spot of bin-raking.

The Doonhamers admit they face a “pretty much impossible task” in dealing with the problem, having tried “various things” to tackle it.

Their efforts have included playing bird of prey noises over the sound system and flying red kites, a bird of prey common in Dumfries and Galloway, above their ground.

However, the gulls have continued to cause a flap, with staff forced to stay out on the pitch late at night to try to stop them roosting.

But perhaps the management at Palmerston Park are missing a trick. Research has emerged that suggests the secret to protecting your mutton pie from scavenging seagulls is to stare them down.

Apparently, the birds are more likely to steal food when they can avoid the gaze of their victims, according to Exeter University.

In the highly scientific study in tightly controlled conditions, researchers put a bag of chips on the ground and timed how long gulls took to swoop when they were being watched. They compared this to how long it took for the gulls to strike when the person looked away.

The scientists tried to test 74 gulls, but most would not participate, obviously being such shy and retiring types. Of the 27 that approached the chips, 19 completed both the “looking at” and “looking away” tests. Not the most extensive sample group, but perhaps some of the seagulls had bigger fish to fry. Or dogs.

Sadly, there have still been no sightings of Gizmo the chihuahua, who was snatched from a back garden in Devon last month. Things are not looking good for the miniature dog after grisly footage came to light of a seagull devouring a pigeon not far from Gizmo’s home. The doo was 28cm – bigger than the 5lb chihuahua. Positively snack-sized for a peckish gull.

Back at Exeter University, however, word is that we’ve got these feathered friends all wrong.

Researcher Madeleine Goumas said: “Gulls are often seen as aggressive and willing to take food from humans, so it was interesting to find that most wouldn’t even come near during our tests. It seems a couple of very bold gulls might ruin the reputation of the rest.”

So there you have it. When a killer seagull swoops on your sausage supper, stand firm and stare it out.

Aye, right. We’re not that gullible.