The Shell Game


This week’s photo, taken May 27, 2014 at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, features a gull playing the shell game (notice the clamshell in the lower part of the photo).

A few times at Discovery Park, I’ve observed some enterprising gulls that have figured out how to break open clamshells. Although a gull does not have a strong enough bill to crack open a shell, it does have the gift of flight. While clasping a shell with its bill, the clever gull takes flight and gains some altitude above the rocky shore. From a height of about 30-40 feet, the gull opens its bill and – with mouth-watering anticipation – watches the shell fall onto the rocks below.

When the shell hits the ground and shatters, the gull dives down to retrieve the tasty contents that are now being served – on the rocks. The gull needs to move fast because other gulls as well as some crows are usually watching the action, and they are more than happy to steal the prize, if the opportunity arises.

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About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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2 Responses to The Shell Game

  1. Jody Gebhardt says:

    When I was young we spent part of our summers on Martha’s Vineyard. The first rule was to take off your shoes once you hit the island. Our cottage was between a salt water lake and the ocean. We had to cross the sand dunes to get to the lake for swimming, and they were covered with broken shells from gulls dropping their clams to break them open.

    I’m off to the Ranch for a week. I’m so looking forward to it, but will miss your bird walks.

  2. Scott Dean says:

    Very nice shot. You seem to be enjoying learning about and observing gulls.

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