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offshorebirder

Northern Goshawk preys upon Great Black-backed Gull

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Posted (edited)

This is an incredible story, with photos:

 

http://charlieplimpton.tumblr.com/post/152969689166/a-morning-of-unexpectations

 

I imagine that keen birders like @@inyathi, @@Rainbirder, @@Dave Williams, @@Geoff and others will be astounded when they read the account and see the photos.

 

The only other birds I have seen attacking Great Black-backed Gulls were a Peregrine Falcon and a Great Skua (Bonxie).

Edited by offshorebirder
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@offshorebirder Very interesting thanks for posting.

 

My initial thought was wow that is pretty amazing it’s certainly an amazing thing to have seen, however having thought about it a bit I’m not that surprised that a goshawk would do this. I don’t think the size of the gull would be that big of a challenge goshawks are well known for taking large birds their name after all comes from the Old English for goose hawk. Though having said that they don’t often hunt geese but in days past falconers would occasionally fly them at geese and even cranes. They are a significant predator of capercallies a grouse that can average 4kgs (9lbs) they do though mainly take young birds which wouldn’t be quite that heavy. The aggressiveness of the gull might be more of a problem but as far as I know goshawks have been observed killing ravens and even Eurasian buzzards. I’ve never actually seen one in this country but I haven’t I confess taken the time to work out where the nearest birds are and go to look for them, I should do that one day, although they are still quite rare here. My impression of goshawks is that they are very much a forest/woodland bird and greater black-backed gulls and indeed other gulls really aren’t so I would tend to think that they don’t cross paths very often. However that may be the case here in the UK, in the US it may be a slightly different story if goshawks are much more common than they are here.

 

 

After it survived the initial attack I would probably have expected the gull to fly way or maybe when the gull attacked it that the goshawk would fly off to look for an easier meal, a great black-backed gull has been observed driving a goshawk off its prey. However since neither took the chance to fly away I’m not that surprised that the goshawk won, great black-backed gulls are very aggressive a bit bigger and do have powerful beaks but a goshawk is better armed and also very aggressive. I would expect a gull to fight one off, but not kill one at least not without considerable difficulty and without sustaining severe injuries in the process. If a goshawk took a gull by surprise I don’t think it would have much trouble killing it.

 

 

Having said that I didn’t think that goshawks and gulls cross paths that often, I thought I’d look on the web to see what information I could find on whether they prey on gulls and came across some slightly similar photos of one killing a herring gull, not as remarkable in this case as the goshawk presumably killed it when it first struck.

 

 

Gullfest warm up goes violent - Goshawk vs Gull

 

Herring gulls aren’t that much smaller than great black-backs.

 

 

Apparently so I’ve discovered some falconers in the bird control business do use goshawks to try and control gulls on landfill sites, I assume the intention is mainly to deter them and not necessarily kill them although I’m sure they do kill a few. In the UK many of our gulls have declined to the surprise of a lot of people who regard them as a pest, the herring gull is now red listed and the great black-backed is amber listed so to kill them you need to have a license.

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Hello @@offshorebirder perhaps the key here is that it was a juvenile goshawk-nearly biting off more than it could chew. I can count the number of Goshawk sighting i have had in the UK on the fingers of 1.5 hands, and then mostly soaring in a display flight so the footage is very interesting. I have also heard of Goshawk occasionally taking Buzzards, Tawney owls etc-whatever they can surprise and once of a white Tailed Eagle killing a Goshawk that got too close to it whilst mobbing! @@inyathi one of the joys of bird watching-going slightly off piste-is seeing the inter-action between corvids and birds of prey, or different birds of prey and each other-my abiding memory of a kestrel spiraling higher and higher seemingly casually out climbing a determined carrion crow is one of my first ever birding memories, or a peregrine diving out of what seemed to be nowhere narrowly missing a hoodie and it seemed our heads!

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Posted (edited)

I had similar thoughts @@inyathi - that gulls and Goshawks do not cross paths often due to very different habitats. Here in North America, Goshawks pretty much only occur on the immediate coast during migration and even then at sites with nearby forests. Your landfill example is another scenario where the two species might come together.

 

So I guess my astonishment was as much from the comparative rarity of two species meeting each other, as the young Goshawk preying successfully on the gull. It also seemed like a smallish Goshawk to me - presumably a male if it was as small as the photos made it appear.

 

And yes, a Goshawk ultimately has better equipment for defeating a GBB Gull, rather than vice-versa. Goshawks' long legs (with talons on the end) allow them to puncture the gull at a distance greater than the gull's weapon (bill) can reach. So the Goshawk has much longer reach - which it used effectively in this case.

 

-- Thanks for the link to the blog post about the Goshawk taking a Herring Gull. As you say, HEGU are not much smaller than GBB Gulls.

 

In terms of controlling gulls at sites where they are unwanted - I would think a Peregrine or Gyrfalcon would be more effective, as gulls would seem to have more of an instinctive fear of Falcons. They certainly seem to fear falcons more than accipiters in my experience...

 

@@Towlersonsafari - I had the same thought - that perhaps the inexperience of the immature Goshawk might have led it to "bite off more than it could chew" - though it did chew it in the end!

 

The Gull might have had better luck if it immediately made for the adjacent water when the first round ended and he was temporarily free of the Goshakw's grip. The Goshawk was too small to carry the gull, so being over/on the water would have meant the Goshawk could not feed even if it did kill the gull. And the Goshawk could not "lie down" while gripping the gull in its talons if they were on the water.

Edited by offshorebirder
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I was in group of birders witnessing a fight between a goshawk and a herring gull. The immature goshawk stooped down on the swimming, immature gull. The fight went on for several minutes in the water, it was difficult to guess the outcome, wings flapping in the spray. Grey seals in the vicinity noticed the struggle and came closer. Sometimes the goshawk was the one under the surface.

 

Finally, after about five minutes, the goshawk let go of the gull and flew away. The gull swimmed away, but probably was seriously injured. We never saw it fly, after some minutes it was out of sight.

 

I am grateful to have witnessed the show, just sorry that I didn´t get pictures to show you.

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