Many pride themselves on their hunter abilities. These men and women spend a lot of time honing their skills in tracking and catching prey. Among these hunting enthusiasts, some prefer to use their skills to compete with various fish. Whether fly fishing down streams or on the high seas, fishing is an important industry as well as a pastime. While some people qualify to be great anglers, even the best anglers pale in comparison to the best animals. Animals that target fish have evolved unique adaptations to help them catch fish, including claws, beaks and quick reflexes. The best of these animals are the many birds that eat fish. With their keen eyesight and agility in the air or water, birds hunt fish in flocks. Eagles, gulls, ducks, herons, storks, cormorants, ospreys and penguins all eat fish, but how do they do it?
In this article, we’ll introduce 7 different species of fish-eating birds. We’ll discuss where they live and what they look like. Plus, we’ll look at how they ate fish, and what made them such great hunters. Hopefully you can see one of these birds in action as it dives into the water for food. Let’s get started with 7 fish-eating birds.
#7: Bald Eagle
The bald eagle is a kind of eagle sea eagle. Bald eagles are found only in North America, living near the open waters between Alaska and Mexico. The national bird of the United States, the bald eagle is one of the most recognizable birds in the world. It gets its name from its white head, which contrasts with its mostly dark brown plumage. On average, they are 28 to 40 inches long with a wingspan between 5 feet, 11 inches and 7 feet, 7 inches. Once threatened with extinction due to the use of pesticides containing DDT, the bald eagle is thriving again. Currently, the IUCN lists them as a species of least concern.
Bald eagles will eat just about anything they can get their hands on, including trash. However, most of their diet consists of fish such as trout, salmon, and catfish. Among fish-eating birds, bald eagles are capable of capturing some of the largest prey. Although most fish are about a foot long, they can carry fish nearly 34 inches long through the air. Typically, vultures feed on carrion or dead fish from other animals floating on the water. That said, they also descend from the sky to catch live fish in their claws. Then they start tearing the fish apart with their claws, which have ten times the grip of a human.
#6: Common Tern
The common tern belongs to the seabird family Laridae. Like other terns, it is highly migratory, flying south in winter. In summer, it lives in temperate and subarctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. In winter, terns migrate south to the warmer coastal regions of South America, Africa and Australia. The most common terms are black cap, white cheeks, neck and lower body, and gray back and wings. On average, they are 12 to 14 inches long and have webbed feet. Their bills look long, changing from orange at the back to black at the front. They nest in large colonies that can house tens of thousands of birds, especially near the coast.
Common terns are primarily fish-eating birds, but they also eat insects, worms, squid, and crustaceans. They hunt by diving headlong into the water from a height of 20 meters above the water’s surface. However, they do not dive very deep, and only return to about 2 feet below the surface. Common terns most often target fish that are about 2 to 6 inches long, such as sardines. Common terns forage in flocks and may also steal fish from other birds. After catching a fish, a common term is to swallow it whole or bring it back to its lair.
#5: Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is a wading bird of the heron family. While most live in North America, you can also find them in the Galapagos Islands and the Caribbean. They live in a variety of wetland habitats, including lakes, swamps and streams. Of all the herons in North America, the great blue heron is by far the largest. On average, they are 36 to 54 inches long with a wingspan between 66 and 79 inches. They get their name from their large size and distinctive plumage. Their plumage is blue-gray on the back and wings, light gray on the neck, and white and black on the front. Like all herons, the great blue heron has a long, yellow-orange bill.
Unlike some birds that eat fish in groups, great blue herons are solitary and prey primarily alone. In addition to fish, they eat a wide variety of prey, including crustaceans, insects, rodents, frogs, and reptiles such as snakes. The types of fish they eat vary depending on the region they live in. That said, common fish include flounder, perch, perch, smelt, and stickleback. Great Blue Herons usually fish while standing quietly near the water’s edge. However, they can also catch fish while walking or flying. They rely on their keen eyesight to spot prey, and then use their long beaks to rush forward. After catching a fish, a great blue heron will swallow it whole.
Ospreys, also known as ospreys, are birds of prey in the family Pandionidae. The term osprey is usually used to refer to western ospreys, not eastern ospreys. Together, these two birds make up the osprey family, although scientists also recognize several subspecies. Ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctica, making them the most widespread raptor after the peregrine falcon. They live in a wide variety of habitats, although they tend to live near bodies of water. On average, they are about 19.5 to 26 inches long with a wingspan between 50 and 71 inches. Their plumage is dark brown on the back and wings, and white on the chest, head, and underparts.
Ospreys are birds that eat almost exclusively fish. Overall, fish made up 99 percent of their diet. That said, they will occasionally eat small mammals or birds if they are readily available. They will eat almost any fish they can catch, including any fish weighing less than 4.5 pounds. When hunting, ospreys rely on their keen eyesight to spot fish from the air. Upon seeing a target, the osprey swoops down and sticks its feet into the water. Depending on the depth of the fish, an osprey may dive completely below the surface. After catching a fish, most ospreys will bring the prey back to where they can sit and eat.
#3: Great Cormorant
Great cormorants are members of the cormorant family. Great cormorants go by many other names, depending on the habitat. Other names include black shag, black cormorant, and great cormorant. Great cormorants are widespread and live in a variety of wetland habitats, including coastal areas, lakes and rivers. You can find them in the eastern United States, Greenland, Europe, West and East Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and Australia. Generally, great cormorants are 27.5 to 40 inches long and have a wingspan of 47.5 to 63 inches. Their plumage is predominantly black with a yellow throat patch on their throat.
Great cormorants dive into the water to catch fish. Among fish-eating birds, cormorants use a similar strategy to diving ducks. They dive beak first and stay in the water for up to 30 seconds. During that time, they dived to a depth of 19 feet below the surface. When in the water, they rely on their vision and keen underwater hearing to find fish. Common fish eaten by great cormorants include smelt, sole and wrasse. After catching a fish, great cormorants usually swallow the fish whole.
The Shoebill, also known as the Shoebill, is one of the most unusual looking fish-eating birds. Despite its name, the shoebill is actually a member of the order Pelicans, herons and pelicans. The Shoebill is the only member of the Stobiidae family, making it one of the most unique birds in the world. Shoebills live only in wetlands such as swamps and swamps in sub-Saharan Africa. Typically, they are 39 to 55 inches long and have a wingspan between 7 feet 7 inches and 8 feet 6 inches. Their plumage is blue-gray with dark blue feathers near the wing edges. They get their name from their distinctive beak, which is thick and the third longest of all living birds. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and poaching, the Shoebill is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
Shoebills primarily eat fish, but they also eat other aquatic animals, including frogs, snakes, and other vertebrates. In particular, they prey on several species of lungfish, peckerel, tilapia and catfish. Thanks to their large, pointed beaks, Shoebills can hunt large prey up to 3.3 feet long. While hunting, the shoebill stands still, waiting for prey to approach. Once they spot a fish with their keen eyesight, they open their mouths violently to catch their prey. Depending on size, they usually swallow their prey whole, although they may also bite their prey into smaller pieces.
#1: Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are members of the penguinidae penguinidae. It is the largest member of the penguin family and one of the most famous fish-eating birds. Emperor penguins are native to Antarctica and live near the coast. Emperor penguins migrate great distances over land along shifting coastlines due to changes in land area in summer and winter. On average, emperor penguins are 39 inches long and weigh between 49 and 99 pounds. Their feathers are black on the back, white on the front, and have a yellow neck. Due to climate change, the IUCN currently lists emperor penguins as Near Threatened.
Like other penguins, emperor penguins cannot fly. However, this does not prevent them from effectively fishing in the water. Emperor penguins can dive to a depth of 1,755 feet below the surface. They can hold their breath for nearly 20 minutes while searching for food and swim at speeds of up to 5.6 miles per hour. Although their diet also includes squid, crab and shrimp, emperor penguins mainly eat fish. Especially Antarctic whitebait and cod are eaten in large quantities. During a dive, emperor penguins may catch several fish before returning to the surface.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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