In part one of our blog looking at famous sea birds of the North Sea area and how they live explained some of the natural adaptations marine birds have that help them to survive the harsh environment of the open sea. In this blog we start with how marine birds hunt.
The Art of Hunting – The Submarine
As you would expect most marine birds survive on a diet of fish, and marine birds are excellent hunters at sea. Puffins, razorbills, and guillemots dive deep under water to catch their prey. These birds look and behave like penguins, and sort of fly under the water with their wings half open. Their feet are webbed which prove to be excellent rudders. The guillemot has been spotted at depths below one hundred and eighty meters below the surface.
The Gannet prefers to hunt its prey from the air, this magnificent bird uses a jabbing dive from a height of anything from thirty meters which is straight down from the sky. The dive has been timed at up to 100 kilometers an hour, and the bird tucks its wings close to its body to get the perfect torpedo shape. The head of the gannet has been strengthened to survive the impact of the dive, and there is also an ingenious air cushion under its skin to provide more cushioning.
The Surface Raider
Some marine birds prefer to hunt like a surface hunter, and the fulmar is a perfect example of this. The bird simply sits on the surface of the water and searches for shrimp or small fish that are to be found just under the surface of the water. Many marine birds have plain white feathers on their bellies, these act like camouflage when the birds fly low over the water or actually sit on it. The fish cannot tell the difference between the birds and the glittering sea water.
Marine Bird Migration
Seabirds differ in the way they migrate, some actually stay in the same place all year around other fly off to pastures new. Birds that choose to leave the North Sea and migrate are puffins and gannets, whereas the auk, guillemot, kittiwake and fulmar prefer to stay around the North Sea area if not the exact same position. Some birds migrate as their nesting areas are too harsh in winter, and they need to go to warmer climates to feed and forage. The Frisian Front is a popular place for many marine birds to migrate to, as the tidal currents are weak so the birds can feed in the mud beds which are rich in nutrients.
Hunting of Marine Birds
Seabirds are not normally hunted by man for food, they are lucky in the fact that they simply do not taste good. However, some are hunted for their eggs which are quite delicious, and that is why they tend to nest in the most inhospitable places.
The biggest problem to marine birds is poisoning from toxic and polluted water, this is becoming a serious global problem that different world bodies are trying to address, as polluted water is a danger to all life and not just seabirds.