Juvenile herring gulls following gannets

When I came across this melee of seabirds, just off the East Pier in Scarborough, I was a bit confused at first about what was going on!

There were large numbers of juvenile Herring gulls taking off and landing in the water. What were they doing?

After a while, I realised that there were a few gannets feeding, and the gulls were following them and trying to get some fish!

There were four gannets, two adults and two brown juveniles. Maybe a family?

The gannets were of course diving into the sea to catch fish (which the herring gulls were not capable of).

However, it did not stop the young Herring gulls having a go! This one (below) has its head in the water!

There were not many adult Herring gulls in this flock. They probably knew it was a waste of time! But there were some Black-headed gulls which appeared to be having some success. A first winter juvenile and an adult (below).

There were also some guillemots and razorbills hanging around hoping for some spilt fish!

The mixed flock was moving, but eventually I managed to photograph the gannets at the centre of the action.

Two juvenile gannets
Two adults and a diving juvenile northern gannet (Morus bassanus)

How successful the Herring gulls were, is hard to say. Maybe this was a learning experience, a lesson for them? There seem to be a large number of juveniles around this year in Scarborough. Their parents had a good lockdown! Undisturbed by the council, but a bit short of pickings during the first lockdown.

European herring gull (Larus argentatus) juvenile

Nevertheless, it was fun to see and photograph this behaviour and it made me think about how birds interact with each other.

One comment

  1. interesting stuff Ray. I have seen the same thing with various species trying to acess aerial swarms of ant alates. Some of those attending – swifts and swallows – are peferfectly capable, but others, like jackdaws and rooks, look gauche and out of their depth. I think the cue is the success shown by other species and they cannot help but try to emulate their betters. No doubt the gannet and auk strikes lured in naive gulls to ‘try their hand’. Nice pics of young herring gulls.

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