Fish feast

Hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls swarmed the shallow water near the edge of the lake, apparently drawn there by the many little fish that seemed to have beached themselves.  They soared, stooped, dove, gathered up the little slimy guys, and plopped them down in the mud to try to eat them.

I don't know how they manage to avoid each other, flying around at this high density.

I don’t know how they manage to avoid each other, flying around at this high density.

Their plops (diving on the fish) were largely unsuccessful.  It was the rare bird that actually flew off with anything in its beak.

Their dives were largely unsuccessful. It was the rare bird that actually flew off with anything in its beak.

xxx

Without a raptor’s sharp-edged bill to tear the prey up into bite-sized pieces, gulls must swallow their prey whole.

But… a gull does not have the expandable gullet that herons, egrets, and other fish-eating waterfowl have.  The following sequence of one little gull trying to choke down a fish as big as its head was kind of humorous.  The poor bird tried three times to choke it down without success.

ring-billed gull eating fish

ring-billed gull eating fish-4

ring-billed gull eating fish

aack!  it won't go down

aack! it won’t go down…

So, not really much of a feast then.

10 thoughts on “Fish feast

    • True, but it wasn’t just this one bird, all of the gulls were having trouble getting these fish down, so I wonder if it was something else about them that was a problem, like a spine in their dorsal fin, or a noxious slime or something.

  1. I had no idea that a gull could have such problems with fish–no wonder they love it when people thrown them bread. I guess they need to set their sights a bit lower and go for the smaller fish. Amazing shots that really illustrate your points well.

    • I wonder if the fish had spines on its dorsal fin that I couldn’t see — maybe the fish was actually getting stuck in the bird’s throat. They eat lots of smelt in the ocean, which are about the same size.

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