Whale Birds – A Note from Ann Novek

Whale birds are a group of birds called this because,

1) They used to follow whaling ships and feed on the blubber and floating oil. (Any of several species of large Antarctic petrels).

2) Prions are a small group of Petrels which once were known as whale birds, because they feed on the same plankton baleen whale feed and were thus likely to be good indicators where the whales may be.

3) The Sooty tern (see photo) is as well called a whale bird.

Photo courtesy BirdLife International/Simon Stirrup

“ We frequently observe humpback whales and birds feeding on the same patches , so it’s not surprising that occasionally birds might be engulfed by feeding humpback whales “.

“We observed three partially digested birds coated with whale feces floating in the water near adult whales”.




5 Responses to Whale Birds – A Note from Ann Novek

  1. Julia April 27, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    ” Feeding minke whales are often seen near the surface chasing fish. The species has been reported to feed in one of two ways: lunge feeding or ‘bird association’ feeding (depending mainly on the feeding areas). Most individuals seem to specialise in just one of these methods. Bird-associated foraging exploits the concentration of fish fry below flocks of feeding gulls and auks, while lunge feeding consists of the whale actively concentrating the prey against the air/water interface with no feeding birds involved. The minke whale is often seen turning on its side when lunge feeding”

  2. J.Hansford. April 27, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    Speaking of birds in unusual places…. As a Mackeral fisherman in the Torres Straits(northern Australia) in my youth, I observed during filleting of a large 20kg Spanish Mackeral(Scomberomorus commerson) the encysted remains of a Sooty tern(Anous minutus)adhering to the gut…. Can’t say I was suprised upon reflection, as these birds in their tens of thousands at a distance, appear as a plume of black smoke swirling around patches of bait fish seething with sharks, tuna, mackeral, etc slashing and leaping about… I have seen spanish mackeral leap perhaps 20meters into the air, mouth agape with pieces of fish flying asunder… it’s no stretch of the imagination for one of them to ingest an unfortunate bird at times… : )

  3. J.Hansford. April 27, 2008 at 8:15 pm #

    LOL… just read that again… 20 feet that shoulda been… need a rocket up it’s umm er…. for 20 meters. : )

    and white capped noddys. Used to miscall em terns. Funny lil’ guys. If they were tired they would come and land on you, if you let them, or sit up on the bow like windvanes bobbing to the waves and pointing into the breeze. Specially if you were in a dingy or dory.

    Nice times.

  4. Ann Novek May 5, 2008 at 5:35 pm #

    Thanks for your nice comment!


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