Often when we visit the seashore, we either see the birds flying overhead or resting on the sand. But we also get to see them hunting for food, either through their own means or taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by others – be they other animals or human beings.
Crabs are a favorite food for various birds, including boat-tailed grackles (Quiscalus major) and sanderlings (Calidris alba).
Grackles also snack on sea oats – including the adult males, adult females and juveniles.
One afternoon on Topsail Island, I came across a fish on shore that had been abandoned.
Just after passing it, I turned to see a ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) fly in, obviously with the intention of making that fish its supper.
The gull was eating delicately, plucking bits of the fish off and eating at its leisure.
Unfortunately, the feast didn’t last long for the gull because a thief in the form of a large great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) swooped in. The ring-billed gull was not happy but couldn’t do much about it (click on the link to the video).
The people fishing from the shoreline frequently have a group of birds waiting nearby. This can definitely be to their benefit, as was the case for this juvenile great black-backed gull that was tossed a fish by a man wrapping up his activities for the day. He told me that he shared fish with the birds on a regular basis.
Other people also offer the seabirds food, but not always of the nutritious kind. Two days running, I saw a young man throwing orange-colored morsels into the air, which were snapped up eagerly by laughing gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) and common terns (Sterna hirundo). Unfortunately, it appears that he was feeding them cheetohs or some kind of cracker with lots of food coloring. The birds seemed to be really anxious to snag a piece; obviously human beings aren’t the only species prone to eating junk food.
Other birds, like this laughing gull and snowy egret (Egretta thula) were more successful in finding their own food. And that is as it should be!