California Gull – The Chase is On

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While my mother was visiting Utah she was able to see how California Gulls chase and feed on Brine Flies, it is fascinating feeding behavior. As my mom watched, I photographed.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 1California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 1

The gull starts out standing on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. The Brine Flies can bee seen in this image floating on the hyper saline lake surface.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 2California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 2

Then it begins to run and the Brine Flies lift off from the sand and water surface. All of the brown colored specks on the shoreline are the pupal casings of the Brine Flies.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 3California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 3

As the gull gains momentum it lifts its wings and more flies take to the air…

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 4California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 4

Then the gull starts to catch the flies by opening and closing its bill as it runs along.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 5California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 5

The Brine Flies fan out in an undulating wave in front of the gull as it races along snatching them from the air

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 6California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 6

When the flies thin out in front of the bird the gull slow down

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 7California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 7

And come to a stop.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 8California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 8

The gull rests a few moments and begins chasing the Brine Flies again. This frame shows the gull a little further from the shoreline and the flies lifting up from the sand.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 9California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 9

Again the gull grabs the flies from the air with its bill.

California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 10California Gull feeding on Brine Flies 10

And comes to a halt again. I have no idea how many flies a California Gull catches when it runs along the shoreline, it would be interesting to know though.

All of these images were taken using my Nikon D300 with my lens resting on my Noodle, f6.3, ISO 500, with shutter speeds ranging from 1/2000 to 1/3200 and all of them were taken using natural light.  These images are a challenge to create because at times the camera tries to focus on the mass of flies instead of the bird.

There are more images of California Gulls exhibiting this feeding behavior on this post titled California Gulls feeding on the Brine Flies of the Great Salt Lake.

Mia

22 Comments

  1. Ingrid October 5, 2012 at 1:57 am

    I was wondering about the focus on the flies, too. Wow, what a series … not only stunning but also amusing. I loved this one.

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Thanks Ingrid, amusing is a great way to describe this behavior because it is!

  2. Jeremy Medina October 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Nice action shots Mia!

  3. Larry Jordan October 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    A super series of this gull behavior Mia. I imagine they can get quite a bill full, opening and closing their bill like that while running. I can also imagine the frustration of the camera focusing on the flies while trying to photograph the gull 😉

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Larry, it can be a problem when the camera wants to autofocus on the flies not the bird but I love the challenge! Thanks for your very kind comments Larry.

  4. Susan October 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Wonderful post Mia, I had no idea gulls behaved in such a manner, never mind that they eat flies.

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Thank you Susan, it is fascinating to watch the California Gulls feed on the flies.

  5. Carol Mattingly October 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    You got some really nice images of that whole process. Pretty amazing what birds do to feed if I do say so myself. Carol

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Thank you Carol, I was pleased with how the images came out.

  6. Bob Bushell October 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    The poor California Gull, swamped with flies. Great pictures.

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Bob, it was a lot of fun to photograph these gulls.

  7. Tammy Karr October 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    What a fascinating action sequence! Hopefully the flies kept away from you!!

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Thank you Tammy, the flies don’t bite, they just tickle the skin. Thanks for commenting

  8. Bill Hutson October 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Wonderful post Mia, I am always so jealous of you to have such excellent photography opportunity location up there.. So a friend and I are planning a visit maybe as soon as next week… Any good tips on were to go please let me know.

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

      Bill, I’ve sent you an email with some birding locations you should visit. I think you will enjoy them a lot!

      Thanks much for your comment.

  9. Laurence Butler October 3, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Super shots Mia! I’ve felt like this Gull when going for French Fries a few times…

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Thank you Laurence! I’ve felt like this too when going after French Dip with Au Jus 🙂

  10. Steve Creek October 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Great post Mia! This is something I have never seen before.

    • Mia McPherson October 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Steve, the behavior is fascinating to see and photograph.

  11. eric c11 October 3, 2012 at 6:18 am

    wonderfull serie with a great action of the gull, good job mia ☺

  12. Beverly Everson October 3, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Very, very interesting, Mia! Great shots!

Comments are closed.