Who’s up for lunch? A Gull-eating Octopus in Victoria, BC

By Ann Nightingale

One of the great things about being a nature lover is that your powers of observation seem to improve. While others are walking by, oblivious to the activities going on all around them, naturalists notice the creatures and the behaviors, especially if they are out of the ordinary.  

Ogden%20Point%20Breakwater%20-%20Craig%20Spence

The Ogden Point Breakwater is a popular spot with folks out for a weekend stroll. (Photo by Craig Spence, sourced online at Flickr.com)

Such was the case on March 24, 2012, a sunny Saturday morning, when Ginger Morneau, her husband Ken, and brother Lou Baker were walking along the Ogden Point Breakwater in Victoria, BC. The breakwater is a favourite spot for locals and visitors, reaching out about a half mile from the waterfront south of downtown. The area is also popular with divers as it is a marine park, populated with interesting fish, marine plants and invertebrates. Walkers strolling along the top of the breakwater can often see marine wildlife in the water below.  

As the group headed out along the walkway, Ginger noticed a gull acting strangely a short distance ahead of her. The bird was on the inside of the breakwater, where the water is clear and can be quite still. The gull appeared to be feeding on something underwater, but it didn’t raise its head. As they approached, they could see a red-orange shape in the water below the gull. When they got to the spot directly above the gull, they could see that it was an octopus. And Ginger’s camera was in her hand.

The Giant Pacific Octopus can be seen regularly patrolling the shallows of the shorelines around Victoria. They primarily feed on crustaceans, but are known to occasionally take fish and even birds. Octopi are extremely intelligent animals, and great problem solvers. Although they live only about four years, they can grow to have a span of more than 20 feet and to weigh more than 100 pounds. This one wasn’t that large, but it was still an impressive individual. What was even more impressive, though, was that it had one of its tentacles wrapped around the head of the gull, holding it under water.

image001

When first spotted, it appeared that the young Glaucous-winged Gull was feeding on something just under the surface...but on further inspection it became clear that the gull was was the prey item. (Photos by Ginger Morneau)

image003

The first winter Glaucous-winged Gull was struggling, flapping its wings in an attempt to break the octopus’s grip, but without success. The octopus’s eight tentacled arms allowed it to cling firmly to the rocks and simultaneously maintain its grasp on to the gull. Initially, air was bubbling to the surface, but within a minute, the struggle was over. More tentacles came out of the water to grab the body of the gull and pull it completely under. Other gulls flew overhead, noisily checking out the scene as if to see if there were going to be any scraps, but disappeared once the victim had been pulled from the surface.  

image004

In less than one minute the gull was drowned, fully submerged and appeared to partially ingested with only its wings still visible. (Photos by Ginger Morneau)

image005

Ginger described the battle as “primal” and although she wanted to rescue the gull, it wouldn’t have been possible due to the sheer drop from the walkway–not to mention that the writhing tentacles of the octopus were more than a little intimidating. So she snapped a few more pictures, aware that she was witnessing a rarely-seen event. There wasn’t time for more–from her first picture to her last, only 53 seconds had elapsed. A couple of others watched the spectacle, but most people just walked on by, unaware of the struggle just fifteen feet below them.  

Gulls will eat octopus, given the opportunity. There’s a decent possibility that the victim in this story might have even been pecking at the octopus before Ginger and her family happened by. We’ll never  know who started this battle, even though we definitely know who won! There are other records of octopus catching and eating sea birds, including reports of one with a den near a boat ramp on Whidbey Island that was seen catching both gulls and Pigeon Guillemots. However, Ginger’s are the only photos we’ve found that document this behavior.  

To commemorate witnessing and photographing this amazing event, Ginger, Ken and Lou went out for a calamari lunch.  

Literature Cited:

Mather, Jennifer A., Roland C. Anderson and James B. Wood (2010). Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate (2010).

Sazima, Ivan and Lisandro Bastos de Almeida (2008). The Bird Kraken: Octopus preys on a sea bird at an oceanic island in the tropical West Atlantic. Marine Biodiversity Records, 1 , e47 doi:10.1017/S1755267206005458

1

fabulous capture!! . . . both Ginger & the octopus!! . . . thanx so much for sharing!!

2

I’ll never eat calamari again without thinking of this episode. Good work, Ginger!

3

First calamari is made with squid not octopus.
Both animals are hunters as are we humans they will kill and eat any and everything they can. Even the fins of otherwise killed and wasted sharks for example.

4

Why want to “rescue” the gull? Octopus need to eat too, and I’m cheering for octopus, perhaps they’ll eat more of the too-abundant scavenger urban gulls. Even better would be taking a few pirate bald eagles, so the osprey, loons and herons could keep their food and babies!
Was bird on the menu too, would have been a better choice for celebrating with the octopus! :}

5

First off – amazing photo captures of this behaviour! Those big octopus are formidable! Second – those “too-abundant scavenger urban gulls” are responsible for cleaning up a lot of waste of us “too-abundant scavenger” urbanites, so don’t be so quick to judge them – same goes for the “pirate bald eagles”. One species isn’t any more desirable or deserving than another, and everything has to eat, and everything has babies – “cute” or otherwise. Third…nah, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for those great pics again, and for looking closer.

6

Why is there repeated (OP and comments) use of “octopus” as a plural form here? There may be debate about the correctness of “octopi” as a plural, but there’s no question that “octopus are…” is completely wrong.

7

Wow, what a snarky bunch you all are!! What amazing photos and a great article.

8

We thank “Pedant” for pointing out the plural form error in the text. I missed that in editing Ann’s article. The beauty of the web is that the “ink” never dries.

Dave Irons
Content Editor www.birdfellow.com

9

I agree with Mel K here, no species is undesirable. If a person think that’s true, then that person’s ignorant. But yes, a lot of birds do clean up the disgusting trash we throw away.

I’d save the gull as well, if I could.

10

First of all, “Octopus” is singular, “Octopi” is plural.
Second of all, great pictures of an amazing event.
Third of all, why would you, or anyone, want to try and save the gull? Yes, gulls are essential in cleaning up all the crap that the human race leaves behind, so therefore no human has any right to bitch about the flourishing of any sea gull species, because that is directly due to human ignorance. But You (Ginger) just got to witness, and capture, nature in its glory: an extremely rare event that has very little documentation about it. True nature should never be disturbed and/or interrupted, especially by humans. That’s the problem with the whole human race: we have the “top-of-the-food-chain” mentality and feel that we should dictate and control how nature acts, and then some of us wonder why so many species are, or soon will be, extinct now.
Leave it be, and let nature take its course. It’s the right thing to do.

11

I would have taken the octopus and made a nice soup with it:)…..maybe even the gull would be good for a soup….mhhh:)

12

Sigh. The plural of octopus is not octopi. It’s octopuses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus#Etymology_and_pluralization

13

YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!! FOR OCTOPUSSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

14

REALLY !!! ? It’s Just life ! Sometimes your the Octpi – Octopus AND sometimes your are the bird – Get the bird !

15

What a rare sight! Good job on those pictures :)
Ogden is my favourite dive site, I go as often as I can! And I love seeing the octopus there. (I don’t know about the correct grammar, but I do know that I feel silly when I say octopi, so it’s octopus for me.)
As for who deserves to win? An octopus has never messed on my car. GO OCTOPUS!!

16

to comment #6 Pedant | April 30, 2012 | 09:42 AM
octopus is correct and pl = octopuses – not octopi
keep trying!

17

correct pluralization of octopus: http://www.darwineatscake.com/?id=113

18

I’m with #7…thank you for sharing.

19

I was fortunate enough to just recently capture a number of photos of a male Bald Eagle fighting with an octopus. This was a spectacular 5 minute display of a life struggle, which ended in what I would consider a draw. The eagle exhausted finally gave up on trying to pull the octopus from the tidal pool.

20

Octopi = 8*pi. . .
Interesting how so many people comment on what happend beyond the bare facts presented. We as humans have developed some intellectual features to “see” beyond the “hardware” of the universe. Particularly interesting is the reactuion of Bob A. Ganoosh: On the one hand he advises that we should “let nature take its course” as if humans are not an integral part of it … I presume this is said in the spirit of: “Eat or be eaten” as happens in the survival-mode of life for animals and even plants, but on the other hand Bob objects to humans interfereing with nature because this would, apparently necessarily, “mess up” nature’s way of “running its course” as if this is something ordained to take place without humans interfereing with it. This is of course a rediculous presumption that can not be supported with any rational argument. . .If Bob had a child and it would be attacked by a mad dog (or even a sane dog),or a hungry bear, or a lion, he would not be inclined to let nature takes it course, nor would he think it is OK to let his child die from a simple-to-cure-illness by refusing treatmment with medicines that come out of a high-tech pharmaceutical factory. . .Bob would be quite ready to try all sort of treatments and pay good money to save his child by any means he can think of. . .or his doctor can think of. . .“Interfering with nature” as Bob calls it, would be his greates priority at that moment. . . .unless Bob is inhuman! To call a spade a spade: Bob would be doing the most natural thing he can think of . . .Bob would be trying hard to let nature run its course by trying to prevent his child to die. . . .Every single thing a person does is a “natural event”. . .be it a harmful one or not. . .it happens as part of being human. . .unnatural events do not exits. . .unless gods exist. . .but they do not. The universe unfolds. . .That is nature, unfolding as it does.

21

Wasted opportunity for gull-stuffed octopus.

22

Excellent pics, Ginger. I think trying to save the gull would be unfair to the octopus. This is life and death. So be it.

23

Conrad (#20) picks on Bob A. Ganoosh (#6) who recommends us to “let nature take its course”. Does this mean that Conrad is not gullible?

He seems to think that Gods would not belong to nature if they existed. Logical error. Even if Gods are only concepts, they still are natural concepts, unfolding with all the rest.

At lunchtime, octopi understand that better than us.

24

Id love to see the video somewheere if there is one! - (:

25

beautiful!

26

Beautiful and interesting!!
I’ll show to my students

27

IIRC, “octopus” is from the Greek, so that the plural is “octopuses.” (IMHO, of course.)

28

The octopus will survive Climate Change — and evolve. These photos are a hint of what animal will become the next dominant species.

29

THAT POOR BIRD

30

Great shots! A video for those interested…I’m going to stick with octopuses. haha :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFyY2mK8pxk

31

Vote Canadian Octopus – 2012.

32

CHOMP!

33

You Canadians are such lovely people. I far prefer reading your comments than watching a gull being devoured.

34

This Octopus is a hero and should be given the key to the city. Is there anyway I can hire this Creature to get rid of the Gull’s nesting on my roof?

-Victoria Resident.

35

Awesomesauce! Not just because I ate an octopus tonight, but because I love the idea of a true monster from the deep reaching out and eating an air-breather.

Great captures.

36

Dinner is served

37

Yes I must admit, these comments are pretty wild. What an intense bunch ;). Someone has yet to use the correct genus and species…good grief.

38

Let’s clear up the grammar

Octopus

“There are three plural forms of octopus: octopuses [ˈɒktəpəsɪz], octopi [ˈɒktəpaɪ], and octopodes [ˌɒkˈtəʊpədiːz]. Currently, octopuses is the most common form in the UK as well as the US; octopodes is rare, and octopi is often objectionable.7

The Oxford English Dictionary8 lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes (in that order); it labels octopodes “rare”, and notes that octopi derives from the mistaken assumption that octōpūs is a second declension Latin noun, which it is not. Rather, it is (Latinized) Ancient Greek, from oktṓpous (ὀκτώπους), gender masculine, whose plural is oktṓpodes (ὀκτώποδες). If the word were native to Latin, it would be octōpēs (‘eight-foot’) and the plural octōpedes, analogous to centipedes and mīllipedes, as the plural form of pēs (‘foot’) is pedes. In modern Greek, it is called khtapódi (χταπόδι), gender neuter, with plural form khtapódia (χταπόδια).

Chambers 21st Century Dictionary9 and the Compact Oxford Dictionary10 list only octopuses, although the latter notes that octopodes is “still occasionally used”; the British National Corpus has 29 instances of octopuses, 11 of octopi and 4 of octopodes. Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary lists octopuses and octopi, in that order; Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes (in that order).

Fowler’s Modern English Usage states that “the only acceptable plural in English is octopuses,” and that octopi is misconceived and octopodes pedantic.

The term octopod (plural octopods or octopodes) is taken from the taxonomic order Octopoda but has no classical equivalent. The collective form octopus is usually reserved for animals consumed for food."

Great catch on the photos!

39

Wow!! That was different, I did not know octupus can eat birds!!

40

I am also with #7… the comments really miss the point that a fascinating natural battle was captured by Ginger on film and she has shared it with us all to see! What an opportunity for us all to observe this sea creature in an arial-meets water battle! Why not comment on that?

PS Thank you, #38!!!! So many people bark about the correct pluralization of octopus without actually having a clue what the real convention is. As a biology graduate, “octopi” is a pet-peave :P —>Octopuses! (also #12, #16… we know what’s up)

41

WE SERVE THAT SOUP!!!!

42

I think the plural should be “octopus”, the way “fish” is plural. “Fishes” is used to discuss more than one species of fish; to me “octopuses” seems fit to be used this way also—when discussing more than one species of octopus.

On the human/nature topic, I think rescuing the gull would be unnatural.

43

Yummm… I caught an octopus off Prospect Point (Stanley Park). My guests gobbled it down with a nice spicy sauce faster than seagulls.

44

Cool pics!

45
As afromer resident of a national park I enjoy any wildlife pictures.These were great.
46

.. now that is simply amazing ..

47

What I would’nt give for a good feed of Pulpo(octopus) galliago right now.

48

The Octopus was quoted as saying " The gull tasted like chicken". I tend to agree.
Phisherman Phil

49

PUNY SEAGULL! FEED OUR TENTACLED OVERLORDS!

50

I would have killed that octopus and saved my friend.

51

Wow. Really thick, solid, tight photo guys. Please post up more progress videos and pics, lets see how thick, solid and tight you can get.

52

Reminded me of Gilliat fighting for his life when he was grabbed by a great octopus while working to recover the engine of a wreaked steamboat in Victor Hugo’s “Toiler’s of the Sea”. Picture of a great statue illustrating the scene linked below. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Gilliat_and_the_Octopus-Carlier-IMG_0675.jpg

53

OCTOPI THE SEA COAST!

54

Just as those who walked by this scene oblivious to the drama that nature was presenting right in front of them, so many more, right HERE, are also missing the beauty and wonder of this over a typo or mispronounciation. Ugh! Won’t people ever open their eyes fully?
Beautiful photos Ginger! You were blessed with being at the right place, at just the right time. Thank you for sharing this.

55

Be less concerned about the correct pluralization of rarely used words like octopus and be more concerned about people not being able to spell common words correctly – I’m looking at you, #14.

56

Thank you for the photos and the story Ginger and Birdfellow- What an amazing moment to catch!

57

You can save the bird, by killing the Octopus. We all have to eat….

58

That is one of the most amazing encounters I have ever seen, thank you for sharing this with us. I raised an octopus from almost birth to adulthood and witnessed his intellect firsthand as he matured. This beauty is incredibly intelligent to understand this gull to be a food source. Incredibly awesome

59

Yum. Callamari with feathers.

60

This reminds me of the time I saw a hawk kill what appeared to be an egret or crane by wrapping his claws around his neck until he was limp.
Or maybe the time I saw a egret or crane eat a mocking bird by sneaking up on it while it was on a feeder. That was gross!
Nature is crazy like that.
And yes, calamari sounds especially good right now, even if it is squid.
Great capture, Ginger! Well done.

61

The graph on site 115 records the minimal automobile insurance demands of the 50 says, the washington, and also the states of Europe, agreeing with the 1990 House I Fatal Accident Truth QuotesChimp.

62
I call them Raucous Gulls. And they have become a terror of the inner Harbor region of Victoria. Bald Eagle populations have rebounded greatly since DDT was banned. Unfortunately this means the young ones are establishing new hunting ranges.

Several mated pairs have established a area over one of the the Raucous(Glaucous) primary breeding area. A group of small islands off Victoria. As a result the remaining gulls have decided to make a home in the safer Inner harbor.

As EXTREMELY annoying as their 6 AM screeching can be…..Their population levels are actually decreasing(reluctantly stores his slingshot).

63

where to get ron lauren less expensive any superstar includes rocked a lot of stylish attire
Polo Outlet Locations http://www.michaeldunn.com/?key=Polo+Outlet+Locations

Post a Comment

Name Valid Error
Email Valid Error
Comment