birding-aus Surfing Owls

To: "'Birding-Aus'" <>
Subject: birding-aus Surfing Owls
From: Nick Carlile <>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 15:42:00 +1000
Back in 1990 I was working on Silver Gulls on Five Islands Nature
Reserve, off Port Kembla NSW.

I witnessed a situation that ended up with a Barn Owl in the sea, not
dissimilarly to the Marbled Frogmouth story.

One afternoon towards sunset I was working on the main islands north
side when my attention was drawn to a flock of Silver Gulls mobbing a
bird as it flew slightly to the north of the island.  To my surprise it
was a Barn Owl and every time a gull swooped low enough to contact the
owl, the raptor would loose a little more altitude.

As the drama unfolded it was clear that the Owl was attempting to get to
one of the other near-by islands for some safety (also covered with
nesting gulls).  However the persistence of the mob of gulls was getting
the better of this ponderous flying target.  It was finally forced into
the water, wings open and head tilted upward, upon which the gulls lost
interest in it.

By the time I launched a boat and arrived at the bird it had stopped
blowing bubbles and was not in any fit condition, except for a

I believe gulls occasionally breed at Julian Rocks, off Byron Bay, so by
association may be implicated in the surf-frolicking Marbled Frogmouth,
but that still will not explain how the bird had strayed so far from its
normal habitat.

Silver Gulls in breeding condition will mob any animal they perceive as
a threat.  I have seen that include a sick and water bound Northern
Giant Petrel and a 14 metre Humpback whale -  tho' the whale seen none
too bothered!


Nicholas Carlile
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