greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

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Addendum: Crabbing Gulls

Yet another odd and wonderful thing we witnessed during our most recent trip to Beavertail (7/03) was an example of tool use by two Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus). It was getting dark, and we were seated on the foundation of the old 1753 lighthouse. The wind was becoming truly bone-chilling, and we were just getting ready to head back to the car, when two gulls climbing about on the rocks just a few feet below us caught our attention. While we watched, one grasped a twig in its beak, and the other a dried cluster of Irish moss. They proceeded to lurk about the ledges, sticking their heads into the crevices, and Spooky suggested that they might be "fishing." This seemed absurd to me, as I knew of no instance of gulls of any species using tools. And, I pointed out (pedantically), they would have to be crabbing, not fishing. We sat and watched, and though we never actually saw them catch anything, it began to seem very plausible to us that they were, in fact, poking about in the spaces between rocks trying to get a crab to seize the lure, at which point they could drag it into the open. Turns out, Herring Gulls do, in fact, use tools in precisely this way*, and that's what we were seeing, after all. There are two photos, behind the cut:

*See, for example, Pierre-Yves Henry and Jean-Christophe Aznar, 2006. "Tool-use in Charadrii: Active Bait-Fishing by a Herring Gull," Waterbirds The International Journal of Waterbird Biology (Volume 29, Issue 2 [June 2006]).
Tags: birds, the sea

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