When it comes to food, herring gulls are incredibly opportunistic. They'll eat fish, grains, carrion, and just about anything else that can be found reasonably palatable. On their breeding grounds (which includes the area from the Great Lakes northwards to the southern edge of the arctic circle) they'll raid the nests of other birds to eat the eggs and chicks. They'll also raid the dumpsters of fast food restaurants, and they are not above stealing food from other birds as well.
There are few things in nature more entertaining than watching a group of four or five herring gulls bicker over a fish or some other tasty morsel.
Just today I was very entertained as I watched a herring gull steal a fish from a common merganser at Hammond Lake. When the herring gull took flight with its booty, four other herring gulls followed in aerial pursuit of the thief. One of the gulls caused the other to drop the fish into the choppy waters. Then another of the herring gulls snagged the dropped fish out of the water like it was picking up a fumbled football and took off towards the parking lot like a running back headed towards the end zone. An all out sprint on the wing. But just then a bald eagle swooped in to take part in the action. Knowing better than to challenge an eagle, the fish was dropped into the water again as the gulls scattered. The fish was then promptly picked up by the eagle, clearly the apex predator (or should I say apex thief) in this lakeside ecosystem.
Gulls have got character, that's for sure!
I missed the initial shot of the fish being stolen from the common merganser duck, so enjoy them from here...
|Five herring gulls tussle over one fish.|
|The first year gull's got it!|
|Talk about a full mouth!|
|Bald eagle shows up, gull drops fish, eagle daintily picks it up.|
|Nobody's challenging him/her!|
For more facts and photos of the herring gull click this link.
|A first winter herring gull.|
|A first or second winter herring gull.|
|A second or third winter herring gull.|
|An adult herring gull standing next to the smaller and much more abundant ring-billed gulls.|
You can read more about Iceland gull and Glaucous gull by clicking the following links:
And lastly, I leave you with this photo, which (to me) shows just how challenging and exciting gull watching and identification can be. Not only are there varying ages of gulls present represented by different plumages, but there are also a number of species present, each with its own distinctive shape, size, and plumage characteristics for different ages.
|Mixed flock of gulls containing at least four species: Herring, ring-billed, glaucous, and Iceland.|