Sharks Eat Land Birds?!

By | January 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm | No comments

Photo by Alkok via flickr

It is difficult to imagine sharks eating birds that do not associate with water, but they do. Not all sharks do; tiger sharks are one example.

While route sampling off the coast of Alabama in 2009, Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Markus Drymon caught a tiger shark. While examining, he saw that the shark “coughed up some feathers,” which he later told the National Geographic News reporters. He released the shark and exmined the feathers at the laboratory. While it is common that the tiger sharks eat sea birds, Drymon discovered that feathers actually came from land birds.

As such, Drymon and his scientists captured 50 tiger sharks by studying their stomachs. They found that about half of the animals had bird parts in their stomachs. These birds included woodpeckers, tanagers, and meadowlarks. They are mostly migratory birds. They often get disoriented by the lights so they oftentimes hit the oil rigs and they can also get too tired and plunge into the ocean, according to the American Bird Conservatory’s bird collisions campaign manager Christine Sheppard. An interesting fact is that the death toll of birds is higher in rig collision than the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Sheppard suggested that the “sharks may actually be learning there are places where there are birds available to them.” Drymon said that “it could just be that tiger sharks in this area have learned to take advantage of this prey resource.” His paper with the results will be published in the future and said more studies on sharks eating birds is required.


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