A Clark’s Grebe and Ring-billed Gull Skirmish – The Clark’s Grebe Wins

/, Clark's Grebes, Davis County, Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Ring-billed Gulls, Utah/A Clark’s Grebe and Ring-billed Gull Skirmish – The Clark’s Grebe Wins

Clark's Grebe with prey at Farmington BayClark’s Grebe with prey at Farmington Bay – Nikon D810, f9, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I spent a few hours at Farmington Bay WMA yesterday and was able to witness a very brief skirmish between a Clark’s Grebe that had a fish in its bill and a Ring-billed Gull that tried to steal the fish. I have seen Ring-billed Gulls attempt to take prey items away from Pied-billed Grebes before but this was my first time seeing this type of encounter with the larger Clark’s Grebe. Ring-billed Gulls are opportunistic and are known for kleptoparasitizing from other species and I have come to expect this kind of behavior from them.

I was photographing the Clark’s Grebe hoping to get images of it swallowing what appeared to be a small carp when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.

Ring-billed Gull after diving at a Clark's Grebe with preyRing-billed Gull after diving at a Clark’s Grebe with prey – Nikon D810, f9, 1/2000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I knew a gull was flying in and got ready to hit the shutter button the second I saw the gull enter my field of view. I was able to get three images of the gull as it hit the water but by then the grebe had already escaped with its still living prey by diving deep into the water. This is the first image of the gull on the water and shows that it didn’t get the prey from the grebe, the other two images show the gull flying away with its back to me.

This attempt by the gull to steal the grebe’s prey lasted less than a second but I still found the behavior of both birds interesting. You never know what you will see out in the field photographing birds.

Life is good.



  1. Elephant's Child October 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I am so grateful that your experience and quick trigger finger gave us these shots. Thank you.

  2. Patty Chadwick October 23, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Gulls can sure be persistent when trying tobtake food away from another bird, especially other gulls…

  3. Bob Mcpherson October 23, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Lovely photos, Mia. Very interesting.

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