KILLER GULLS - 14 August 2015

It was Eddie who told me about the killer gulls. "I notice that the gulls here at the university have started attacking pigeons" he said. "When the pigeons are perched on the roof edge, they are attacked from behind by Herring Gulls that swoop down and knock them off, using the advantage of surprise. The pigeon is stunned and flutters down to the ground. Before it has time to recover, the attacking gull flies down, stabs it in the chest, rips out its sternum and soon disembowels it." Eddie reckoned this was new behaviour that he had observed for the first time this summer. It seemed to him to coincide with the mass departure of students leaving for the summer, and he presumed that their absence meant a sudden lack of scraps to scavenge and a need to find new sources for food.

I was in the campus canteen on my last day before taking a summer break. I looked out the window and saw a Herring Gull eating the carcass of a feral pigeon. Was this a case of a hunter eating its prey? I don't know if Eddie is right as I myself have not seen any 'pigeon hunting', but it seems plausible to me. Gulls eat pigeons and much more besides. Nature really is "red in tooth and claw"....

Mark Winter

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