I was standing on Salthill Promenade just after sunrise, sipping a cappuccino, 2 weekends ago when I noticed a bit of a fuss at the water’s edge, just below where I was standing. A family of herring gulls were on the shore, and the juvenile [the mottled brown one in the picture above] was making a lot of noise. One of the parents had just caught a starfish and junior was hoping to get some. When the bird was younger, its parents would have fed it by regurgitating recently caught food and the bird had learned that pecking at a parent’s beak might produce a meal. Not any more.
The juvenile harried, wheedled and screeched, trying to get a bite at the starfish in the other gull’s mouth but didn’t get a sniff of it (it would have got an even more aggressive response if it had approached a gull that it wasn’t related to). It had to watch while the parent swallowed the starfish whole, which required quite a bit of gulping and more than a few mouthfuls of seawater to digest what must have been a prickly meal.