As a form of entertainment, it may lack the sophistication of America’s Got Talent, but watching a gull trying to swallow a starfish is certainly compelling.

Glaucous-winged Gulls in Vancouver’s Stanley Park can often be seen with a perplexed yet determined look on their faces and a starfish half in, half out (or two-fifths in and three-fifths out, or vice-versa), apparently stuck. It is a regular sight here, but I have not noted it elsewhere. A quick trawl through the internet, particularly You tube, shows that it is a behaviour with a wide occurrence and popular appeal, but how will the judges rate it?

In the format of the ubiquitous talent show, three judges can shorten the performance of a talented contender by opting out with a buzzer. The first klaxon sounded as the gull ejected the starfish for the first time (the judge was standing in for Simon Cowell who is resting after an unpleasant case of over-exposure).

Baby owls swallowing large rodents were called to mind as the gull wrestled with its lunch. Do birds not have a gag reflex? I suspect that the starfish was actually brought up to re-position it ready for another attempt.

Gulping and simultaneously snatching, the meal was gradually being forced into the bird’s crop. As the gull turned to face the audience, the finger of the second judge was hovering over her buzzer, but she was mesmerised by the seeming impossibility of the task and stayed her hand as she waited to see what would happen next.

The gull rested for a while with the characteristic grim look of one who has bitten off more than he can chew, then jerked its bill open and shot its neck forward.

Against all likelihood, the perserverence of the gull paid off as the starfish eventually slid down into the crop, making a huge bulge in the bird’s neck. As a piece of constructive criticism, I would have liked to see a 5-pointed star shape slipping slowly down and perhaps some big, bulgy eyes, but even so, it’s a “Yes” from me!

It seemed none the worse for its exertions. It stopped briefly for a sip of water and a wafer-thin mint and then waddled, top- heavily, back to the tideline before stepping out into the channel and paddling off into the next round.

Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.