Subject: Time: 5:39 PM
skua kills gull Date: 31/10/1996
Here's a pretty dramatic sighting. On 28th October off Maroubra, Sydney, I
watched an Arctic Skua kill a Silver Gull. BWP mentions skuas killing waders
and small passerines around their breeding grounds, but I found nothing about
this kind of killing, nor of a skua killing a bird that is almost as big as
itself. I noticed this event as Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were flying fast
towards the commotion. The skua was on top of the gull on the water, holding
it down and trying to drown it. Both birds were flapping their wings, not in a
frantic way, but steadily, the skua to keep the gull down, the gull to try to
get up. The skua wasn't hacking or tearing, but had its bill clamped on the
gull's nape. The gull managed to escape once, and flew up about 2 metres, but
the skua pounced on its back quickly and forced it back down to the water.
This went on for about 15 minutes before the gull's movements stopped, and the
skua backed off a foot or two. It then started pecking at the corpse. I hardly
imagine it was trying to eat it, but I can't work out what it was trying to
do. Any ideas? This pecking was still going on after another 15 minutes, when
I had to leave.
All of this action attracted the attention of a lot of birds (about 20
Wedge-tails, 40 Silver Gulls, three Australasian Gannets, three Crested Terns
and a Common Tern) all circling overhead, some of them swooping at the skua
(CTs and Wedge-tails).
Anyone seen anything like this before?