Whilst gulls are are well known for their sometimes unsavoury habit of scavenging from our waste, they are in fact highly opportunistic feeders with a varied diet ranging from fish to insects, worms, crustaceans, molluscs and even other small birds and their eggs.

Herring gull with a scavenged mallard egg

High tide in the harbour provides the resident Herring Gulls with a regular and constant supply of natural food. On this particular day, crab was on the menu.

Casting a beady yellow eye over the water from it’s nearby vantage point, this adult herring gull suddenly took flight and swooped down into the water headfirst, emerging seconds later with a large crab clamped in it’s beak.

A substantial catch

The large crab struggled frantically as it was caught, flailing free from the birds beak and turning on it’s attacker with snapping claws.

The crab did not go down without a fight
Crab using it’s claws for defence

The gull jabbed at the crab with it’s powerful beak and seized it by a leg before shaking it vigorously in an attempt to disarm it. Only after repeated attempts and the loss of several limbs did the crab give up the struggle.

Shaking the crab to subdue it
Missing limbs


Feeding on the soft flesh beneath the shell

Once the gull had satisfied it’s hunger it flew off, leaving behind bits of empty shell shattered on the ground. Having patiently waited at a safe distance, a flock of Jackdaws soon swooped in to clean up any leftovers.

Picking through the scattered remains


Holding the crab claw under it’s foot

Their small pointed beaks able to reach into tiny spaces in the crab skeleton, where some flesh still remained.

Eating flesh from the limbs

The Jackdaws seemed particularly keen on their seafood supper, and there was much angry chattering and raised feathers as they bickered over the remains.

Jackdaws with ruffled feathers as they compete over the food


This particular Jackdaw appeared to have an old healing injury to it’s head, possibly from a scrap with it’s fellow birds of perhaps a narrow escape from a predator.


Jackdaw with bald patch and wound on the head


All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2017 ©

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