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Gizzard Shad feast

Posted on Nov 27, 2013

It has been very quiet for passerines in most of our (albeit limited) collective time outside, and the big movements and numbers continue to be seen in the waterbirds, especially on Lake Erie. Take a look at these fantastic Bonaparte’s Gull photos Twan took while at Barcelona Harbor as they dove for their meals with easily over 2,000 individuals present.

Bonaparte's Gull DSC_2705

Bonaparte's Gull DSC_2712

Bonaparte's Gull DSC_2815

Can you see the prey? All of the photos have some birds feasting on fish but that last photo has a bird with multiple in its bill. Ducks like this Bufflehead and Horned Grebe, respectively, seem to be diving for them as well.

Bufflehead DSC_2430

Horned Grebe DSC_2454

They may be the same prey that other species like this Great Blue Heron and these Redheads can be found hunting for later in the season as the fish grow a little larger.

Great Blue Heron-9106

What is this (for now) tiny meal? It looks to be Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), an abundant fish that can be found in the hundreds of thousands in locations in the Great Lakes region that attracts these bird species and more each late fall and early winter. These fish were clearly alive and well showing that even without a large fish kill thousands of birds are still attracted to these warm harbor locations to dive for them. Double-crested Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Pied-billed Grebe, Herring Gull, Greater and Lesser Scaup and still more were present and feeding. As the temperature drops, as it has been in the last week, and the waters begin to freeze we will be afforded even more chances to see these birds feeding in warm water close to shore. Head to the coast to see what you can find before it’s all frozen.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photos © Twan Leenders