The Hungry Herring

While at Barnegat Light State Park in New Jersey late last year I was lucky enough to photograph a Herring Gull chopping down on a nice looking sea star. I normally associate sea stars with Florida or the West Coast because that is where I have seen the most and so I was surprised at first when I recognized the gull’s victim. Gulls are not picky eaters. In fact, Birds of North America (BNA) states that Herring Gulls are a “generalist predator on pelagic and intertidal marine invertebrates, fishes, insects, other seabirds, and adults, eggs, and young of congeners. Opportunistic scavenger on fish, carrion, human refuse.” BNA also says that they swallow small prey items whole while large prey items (gastropods, bivalves, sea urchins, crabs) are broken up and eaten or dropped on rocks to break them open.

Herring Gull eating a starfish

This guy really juggled the sea star around trying to fit it down his throat. He seemed frustrated that no matter which way he turned the sea star, its legs were still sticking out and he could not get it down his throat. As I left, he managed to get the sea star further down his throat but still had no luck as far as actually swallowing it.