Latest For the Birds column: Gulls and ants?


A Herring Gull positions a clam for eating in Stratford, Conn.

A Herring Gull positions a clam for eating in Stratford, Conn.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

We’ve all seen gulls eat clams at the beach. They rise into the air, clam in bill, and drop the mollusk onto the pavement.

If the shell doesn’t break, the gull goes a little higher the next time and drops the clam again. Eventually they get just the right altitude and the shell breaks to expose the good stuff inside. If they go too high the shell will shatter into a million pieces and splatter the meat into an inedible mess.

If the gull is lucky, it will get to eat the clam waiting for it on the pavement. If they aren’t lucky, a marauding gull will have come by and stolen the clam before the industrious gull could even make its way back down to the pavement.

But that’s just part of the gull’s varied diet. We’ve also all seen gulls eating fries, potato chips and other human junk food at the beach or in a parking lot.

But did you know gulls eat insects, too? Even insects as small as ants make up part of a gull’s diet. How can an ant satisfy the appetite of a large bird like a gull? An ant can’t, of course, but lots of ants can. Humans don’t open a container of peanuts and eat one nut. We eat them by the handful.

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