Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Any time you get a huge concentration of birds together (more than 3,000 gulls in a mixed flock of herring, great black-backed and ring-billed, with a handful of glaucous and Iceland gulls sprinkled in), you get some cool behavior to watch. The longer you stay, the more likely you are to see something interesting. With these highly intelligent, opportunistic birds, just noting how they forage and what they find to eat is fascinating. Gulls can live into their late 20's; a herring gull has hit 30, and they pick up a whole lot of smarts along the way. For a fascinating look at bird longevity, see the lists at Longevity Records.
I'm a bit disappointed that despite submitting data, my 17 year old captive Orchard Oriole and Savannah Sparrow, rest their souls, haven't yet made the list. Maybe they don't believe me.
Most of the birds were quietly occupied, feeding on dead shad. It seemed that anyone who wanted a fish could find one, and there was little squabbling over the prizes.
When flapping wings drew my eye
and I saw to my amazement an adult herring gull had grabbed the wingtip of a much larger great black-backed gull.
Instead of hammering the herring gull on the head, the great black-backed panicked and tried to get away. Power in intimidation. It reminded me of a little mugger, holding up a knife and subduing a much larger person just with chutzpah. Just because he can.
The kind of scratch-your-head moment that I love so much.
I GOT YOU SUCKA!!
The great black backed lost all dignity and started to squawk in distress.
It finally wrenched its feather free from the ornery herring gull, and flew off to find another place to hang out. A bully-free zone.
It was kind of refreshing to see the Dread Pirate of the High Seas, capable of killing diving ducks and shorebirds with a single blow to the head, bested by a smaller bird.
I can't think that this was anything but play on the part of the herring gull. Risky play, but it's something to do when your crop is full of shad and ain't nothin' else goin' on. Pick a little fight with somebody bigger than you are.
Birds...so intelligent, so mischievous, such fun to be around.