Making an attempt for a free meal

Silver Gull and Pacific Gull looking for a treat.

Avian warfare… or how a pesky Silver Gull makes an attempt for a free meal

There are times we see animals doing things we consider strange or even funny. While their actions may appear unusual to us, a serious aspect often underlies the observed behaviour, frequently linked to the right to service a flock or a herd, to determine or to protect territory, to win a fair mate, to safeguard offspring, or any number of other dynamics, including food gathering.

Birds, as well as ground dwellers, are aggressive in all of the above ways, and size makes little or no difference to who or what they will fight. Just think how often you see plovers or magpies taking on humans, or a starling attack a kite, or a raven in furious flight against a wedgetail eagle?

An especially aggressive bird is our Silver Gull (generically, seagull), especially among its own species when food is there for the taking. Beyond that, it will attack birds considerably larger than itself if it thinks it can fill its crop.

Such was the case recently as I captured the following series of photographs. A Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae, length 450mm, wingspan 950mm) took on a Pacific Gull (L. pacificus pacificus, 650mm and 1450mm) for the sake of a mussel the bigger bird had caught.

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Silver Gull
A Silver Gull becomes aware of a sub-adult Pacific Gull flying by with a tasty mussel in its beak. The Silver Gull takes chase.
Silver Gull
There is a mid-air collision (something I’ve never before seen between these two bird species), with the Pacific, surprised, releasing its meal.
Silver Gull
Momentarily stunned, the Silver allows the Pacific a head start as the two dive after the tasty morsel.

The Pacific, having caught the mussel in mid-air, swoops low and skims away across the beach with the Silver in full pursuit, another Silver in the process of landing. The bigger bird has greater stamina and flies off, leaving the smaller to rue missed opportunity.

We, too, were once hunter-gatherers, but isn’t it now so much more convenient to head off to the butcher, grocer or fruit and vege shop to obtain our needs?

What have you seen an animal do that has caught your attention?