[MARMAM] Whale-Seabird interactions: whales ingesting seabirds

sjcrock at shaw.ca sjcrock at shaw.ca
Mon Dec 22 08:22:40 PST 2008

Hi Trevor,
I expect for humpbacks you are more likely to find seabird remains in stomach contents rather than fecal samples, but that's a guess. However, I just wanted to point out that if you or anyone out there retrieves a humpback stomach with something they think might be bird bone, it would be a relatively quick and easy job for me to ID those for sure. I have been doing pinniped stomach and scat analysis for more than 15 years now and also do archaeological bone ID from coastal sites (fish, bird and mammal). Occasionally, I encounter sea bird (and also other sea mammal remains) in scats from Steller sea lions, which I always ID when I can. Often, there are only bits of vertebrae or foot bones left, but I can still use those for ID. It takes very little time for a few bones like this and is thus quite low cost, so it is probably worth checking out if you've got samples that are suspect. 

Best regards,

Susan Crockford, Ph.D. (Zoology/Evolutionary Biology/Archaeozoology)
Pacific Identifications Inc.,
6011 Oldfield Rd., Victoria, B.C.  V9E 2J4
(250) 721-7296  fax (250) 721-6215
sjcrock at shaw.ca  www.pacificid.com

Adjunct Professor (Anthropology & Faculty of Graduate Studies)
University of Victoria, B.C.
scrock at uvic.ca
book website www.rhythmsoflife.ca
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Trevor Haynes 
  To: marmam at lists.uvic.ca 
  Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2008 1:41 PM
  Subject: [MARMAM] Whale-Seabird interactions: whales ingesting seabirds

        Hi All,
        A topic for those who might be interested in cetacean-seabird interactions. We are just concluding a study focused on seabird forage flocks in southeast Alaska. We found that humpbacks often feed at seabird forage flocks, targeting the capelin that the flocks have trapped at the surface. We noted lunge feeding humpbacks ingesting seabirds during these feeding events. Given the relatively high frequency with which humpbacks were found feeding at forage flocks in our study area, there seemed to be a high potential for seabirds to be taken incidentally by whales. This sparked our interest in tracking down documented instances of whales ingesting seabirds or seabirds turning up in whale fecal samples.

        We've tracked down a few sightings of seabirds being ingested by whales from scientists in the Pacific. Recently, on a seabird listserv, there has been discussion on this topic. It generated a lot of interest and helped track down more sightings. I'm hoping that the MARMAM community can add more sightings of seabird ingestion or of seabirds in cetacean fecal matter and generate more discussion on the topic. Considering there are regions such as SE Alaska experiencing an increase in whale populations, seabird-cetacean interactions have the potential to occur more frequently.

        Trevor Haynes
        Oregon State University
        Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
        Email: th_ooo at yahoo.ca

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