An Aerial Food Fight

A Royal Tern with prey being chased by immature Laughing and Herring GullsA Royal Tern with prey being chased by immature Laughing and Herring Gulls – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 210mm, natural light, not baited

This image was taken on a breezy April morning in 2009 at Fort De Soto County Park’s north beach when I saw an aerial food fight occurring over the Gulf of Mexico. The Royal Tern caught a small fish and an immature Herring Gull and first winter Laughing Gull gave chase to try to steal the prey away from the tern.

It was difficult to track these birds with my lens because they all moved extremely fast and their turns in the air were unpredictable. The chase only happened for a few seconds and in the end the adult Royal Tern tossed the fish down its bill while in flight leaving the Laughing and Herring Gulls to move on to find prey of their own.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Wow. An incredible thing to watch. And I can only assume that eating while on the run DOESN’T cause indigestion in birds.

  2. Patty Chadwick

    That is some crazy capture! I’ve seen one specie chasing another for food, but never more than that!

  3. Absolutely amazing photo Mia. Good thing you had the shutter speed set high ;-)

  4. Superb capture here, Mia! Not often does one see that, much less capture the action!

  5. Nice action photo! I know how difficult those are to capture!

  6. Carroll Tarvin

    Wonderful photo and I’m so glad you could tell us the rest of the story.

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