The skies above Rome have become a battleground as the city's seagulls, starved of their usual diet of food scraps, have begun to feast on other Roman animals.

With no pizza, pasta or pancetta available, the vicious pests have instead turned their beady eyes to their peers.

Where they previously picked only at carrion, seagulls are now hunting blackbirds, swallows and pigeons.

"They are going back to being predators," said Bruno Cignini, a zoologist from Rome University Tor Vergata.

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"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," he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

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The Yellow-Legged Gulls have been a fixture in the Italian capital for years, attracting the scorn of locals and even inviting comparisons to prehistoric beasts.

Centre-right politician Matteo Salvini jokingly said last year that they were "the size of pterodactyls".

He recalled an evening stroll where he found himself "in company with three massive rats - and then there are the aggressive seagulls, which are like pterodactyls".

He said the city was in such a parlous state that "the only thing we are missing is a plague of locusts".

All over the world, animals have started to encroach on human territory since widespread lockdowns saw people empty out of urban areas.

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In the UK, wild goats have rampaged through towns, munching on people's neatly trimmed hedges and trees in front yards and loitering casually on empty streets as if they own the place.

In Thailand, gangs of wild monkeys have been filmed in running battles over territory as their usual food sources dry up.

In New Zealand, we can only hope our own vicious predators don't develop their own blood lust.

Be afraid. Photo / File
Be afraid. Photo / File

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website