do humpback whales eat birds

A hungry pelican was happily feasting on anchovies when the water beneath began to move. Strong baleen jaws clamped down hard—a humpback whale snatched up the seabird.

“It was evident that the pelican was not happy,” says Kate Cummings, the naturalist and co-owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watching who witnessed the event.

At this time of year, many animals gather off Californias coast to feed on anchovies swimming away from whale feeding zones—but they do this at their own peril. Whales swim below schools of anchovies then break toward the surface to scoop up a bite. If other predators dont get out of the way fast enough, the whale gets a bigger mouthful than it bargained for.

Luckily, humpback whales dont eat large creatures, so they have no incentive to swallow. Sensitive organs in the mouths of whales like humpbacks may allow the whale to differentiate between desired prey and unwelcome visitors.

Cummings has seen incidents like this before. Once, a whale trapped a Pink Footed Shearwater and a cormorant in one gulp. “I also saw a sea lion jumping out of a whales mouth,” she says. Each time, the trapped creatures got away when the whale realized what it had grabbed.

In this case, the pelican escaped. Cummings thinks the whale must have sensed it was there because it didnt fully close its mouth. Before submerging, the whale opened back up and the pelican flew away, seemingly unharmed.

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Many animals congregate off the coast of California during this time of year to feed on anchovies that swim away from whale feeding zones, but they do so at their own risk. Whales breach to the surface to grab a bite after swimming beneath schools of anchovies. If other predators don’t move aside quickly enough, the whale may end up with more food than it bargained for.

Cummings has seen incidents like this before. A whale once swallowed a cormorant and a pink-footed shearwater in one gulp. She adds, “I also witnessed a sea lion leaping out of a whale’s mouth.” Every time the whale realized what it had grabbed, the trapped animals managed to escape.

A ravenous pelican was contentedly gorging on anchovies when the water below started to stir. A humpback whale’s powerful baleen jaws closed tightly, snatching up the seabird.

Kate Cummings, a naturalist and co-owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watching, says she saw the pelican and could tell it was unhappy.

In this case, the pelican escaped. Because the whale didn’t completely close its mouth, Cummings believes it must have sensed its presence. The whale opened up again before diving, and the pelican took off, apparently unscathed.

Once completely dry all birds were released at the shoreline. They all headed for the water, and then the skies. As if being caught by a humpback whale wasn’t bad enough, the poor California Gull seems to have had an unknown fate after eluding a Bald Eagle attack and disappearing from view while the hunt was still underway!

Then, we saw that one of the birds that we had previously assumed to be dead was perching on either the floating corpse or another This young California gull had no place in the towel, so I texted our coworkers at the neighboring OrcaLab on Hanson Island, and we hurried over to offer some assistance.

Shortly after, we were greeted on the beach with towels, and we spent the next few minutes drying the birds while seated close to the wood stove. Finally, we took the other Herring Gull back to Alert Bay and left the California and one of the Herring Gulls with our friends at OrcaLab.

When we got closer, we could see that every gull had become fully saturated; two were hanging on to what seemed to be their last moments alive, and nine of the gulls appeared dead from impact or drowning. We seized the two surviving Herring Gulls right away, and I happened to have a dry towel with me, so we wrapped it around them.

I firmly think that humans should constantly be aware of how we affect the environment and its inhabitants, and that we should frequently refrain from interfering with predator-prey relationships. But even though the Gulls usually become resentful and aggressive as soon as they are warm and dry again, I have always felt obligated to assist in situations like this where the by-product of a feeding predator happens to be some accidentally captured Gulls.

FAQ

What did humpback whales eat?

Humpback whales filter-feed on small crustaceans (mostly krill) and small fish. They use several techniques to help them herd, corral, and disorient prey and that can include using bubbles, sounds, the seafloor, and even their pectoral fins.

Do any animals eat humpback whales?

Like all whales, humpback whales are mammals and give live birth to very large calves. These whales are known for their singing; during courtship, the males compose intricate songs to attract females. The killer whale is the only species known to attack and eat humpback whales (always juveniles).

Do humpback whales accidentally eat sea lions?

Fortunately humpback whales don’t have teeth, but bristle like hairs with which they filter out animals too large to swallow. Big animals like sea lions. Dekker told the BBC that whales and sea lions have evolved to hunt in the same shoal of fish, so such a mistake is extremely rare.

Why do birds follow humpback whales?

Here Come the Seabirds This is a form of commensalism, in which one species directly benefits from another without impacting its host, which in this case is the feeding whale. The whales benefit the birds by giving them access to fish, and the birds hardly impact the whales.