It’s bird eat bird out there

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

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 eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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