It’s bird eat bird out there
IT’S dog-eat-dog in the world of nature, and often bird-eat-bird.
Shaun Ivory, who lives in Coatham Road in Redcar. has written about an incident in his garden.
He says: “I have a small but well-stocked garden. I watched a seagull/herring gull chasing a local pigeon around and around, twisting and turning.
“They both fell from my view below the garden fence, where the road is. Then they reappeared, only this time the gull had the pigeon gripped firmly in its beak and flew off with it. Is this normal?”
It is not too common, but it is certainly normal. There are plenty of records of gulls, particularly lesser black backed gulls, catching pigeons.
It’s a good meal for a gull, though the gull does face a problem killing the pigeon because of its size.
I have read of gulls grabbing a pigeon and then walking into the sea, or a lake, with their prey to drown the pigeon before eating it.
The lesser black backed gull, as shown in my photo, can be a vicious killer at times but then he often has a family of his own to feed.
I have seen lesser black backed gulls take young common terns and last year spotted one flying away from RSPB Saltholme with an oystercatcher chick in its beak.
Herring gulls are about the same size as lesser black backs, and seemingly not so vicious, though they will never turn down an opportunity and will take young birds which have just emerged from nests, that’s if they have failed to get to the eggs in the first place.
It’s not just gulls of course. I was once concentrating on watching a short eared owl on a post when it suddenly dropped down and took a water rail.
Then there was a grey heron which grabbed an unfortunate little grebe. And don’t get me started on sparrowhawks.
Personally I would never mourn the loss of a feral pigeon, especially as they are the staple diet for young peregrines.
And it’s worth remembering that predation of smaller birds by bigger birds is not usually regarded as a possible contributory factor when a species suffers a huge drop in numbers.
It’s also should be noted that lesser black backed gulls are declining in parts of their range. They are now on the Amber List, which is the second most crucial list of endangered birds.
So the future for lesser black backed gulls is less bright than that for pigeons!
Eric would like to hear from readers about what they have seen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org