Rottingdean Fulmar Attacked by Jackdaw (photo sequence)

I was down at Rottingdean fairly early this morning, on an errand but while I was there I headed down to the cliffs to check out the local fulmars. This is a good time of year to watch them as they prepare for breeding. There were plenty of them about, flying out over the sea and then doing their typical skimming along the cliffs trying to find a foothold.

Fulmar at Rottingdean

The usual pattern when they try to land is to fly up to the cliff face, turn away, fly a circuit and then try again. They have very weak legs and need to get their landing exactly right. It’s not always easy. I watched several fulmars play this game. Usually they are aiming at a nesting site but just occasionally they pick the wrong spot. As this one did. Here it is making touchdown on the cliff face.

Fulmar approaching a nesting hole

Fulmar approaching a nesting hole

Usually at that point it would either abort the landing, or settle. On this occasion it had chosen the wrong hole. This particular cavity in the cliff was already taken… by a jackdaw; and it was not happy about the uninvited guest. Jackdaws can be very aggressive, even with each other, as the fulmar was about to discover. This is what happened next.

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

Fulmar being attacked by a jackdaw

After they separated the fulmar headed out to sea and the jackdaw returned to its roost.

As well as the fulmars and jackdaws, the cliffs are home to pipits, starlings and pigeons and so minor confrontations are common on the cliffs. Usually though, it’s a case of which bird can shout the loudest and longest. Fulmars invariably win that kind of contest!

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 7D and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L USM IS lens.

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  1. Darko March 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow, that was quite a surprise for a poor fulmar!!!

    • Words March 31, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

      Darko, I think it was probably disorientated and went into the wrong hole in the cliff. They really have to commit themselves to landing and have very little way of backing out if it goes wrong.

  2. dW March 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Advantage: Jackdaw.
    LOL … he really had the poor tubenose, too. I suspect he got a few good pecks and scratches in.

  3. dW March 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Damn “Edit” function ain’t functioning … again. Meant to say that that kind of rapid-fire shooting is difficult enough … thank God for autofocus. Good job, Words.

    • Words March 31, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      dW, I would reckon that fulmars are pretty tough birds, but their main weapon is chemical and more effective as a defensive move. The autofocus struggled a bit with those shots but caught enough to give me something usable. Unlike the ‘edit’ function’. I’m not sure what the problem is but there are no settings to adjust at my end. I would guess it’s a cookie setting that’s causing the problem.