Cottage Q&A: Seagulls fighting loons

A loon flapping its wings in the lake By Petr Simon/Shutterstock

Last October, I was out on our dock when I noticed three seagulls, one flying and shrieking, and two others harassing two loons in the water. Every time they dove, the seagulls would do a flap-jump type of lift and then settle beside the loons when they emerged. I have never seen this before. Were they fighting over the same food?—Trudy O’Brien, Lake Newboro, Ont.

Bingo! Well, probably bingo. “This sounds like a feeding issue of some sort,” says Kathy Jones, the volunteer manager of the Birds Canada Canadian Lakes Loon Survey. “Both species eat fish.” Beyond that, “I can’t say for sure what was happening,” she says. “Perhaps the loons were on a particularly good raft of fish and the gulls wanted to use it? Perhaps the loons had wandered into the gull’s feeding territory? Perhaps both species were fishing on their own, but loons and gulls just don’t do well in the same space?” 

Cottage Q&A: Loons attacking ducks

Maybe, except, “I would think gulls fishing on their own are more efficient than them trying to steal food from loons,” says Jones. Loons scarf. A loon could probably easily gobble down a catch before a gull could snatch it away. Then again, gulls are known for stealing food from other gulls, from other birds, even from people. (Try eating French fries on a beach filled with gulls.)

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Cottage Life.

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