It was a beautiful windless, dead calm sunrise as we wedged our zodiac into the rocky shoreline of Isla Rasa, “Bird Island” a small flat island in the Gulf of California that is home to 95% of the world’s nesting Heermann’s Gulls and Elegant Terns. During Springtime over 500,000 birds gather here to mate and nest. As we sat quietly bobbing about and taking photos of the Terns and Gulls in their mating rituals, we noticed an unusual feeding behavior. Kleptoparasitism is form of feeding when one animal rather than hunt on their own, steals food from another animal often encounter. We have seen this many times as Frigate birds would chase in flight and harass Gulls and other birds to steal their catch. In this case 2 individual Heermann’s Gulls would sit among a group of Elegant Terns waiting for one to return from the sea with a fresh caught fish. As the Tern landed the two Gulls would violently attack the much smaller Tern biting it’s neck, then pushing and holding the Tern underwater causing the Tern to not only drop it’s catch but to regurgitate more fish. It was both an exciting and very violent behavior that we did not see anywhere else on the island except for these two particular Gulls. The more time we spend in the wild we continue to be amazed by Nature’s Way.
Photos by Bill Klipp
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