Seabirds stealing fish from the open mouth of a whale!

It does not happen often that you can observe a feeding whale, so what are the odds that when you do, you also see a reckless seabird inside the open mouth of the cetacean?

In the following sequences you can see two fearless Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)  trying to steal some sand eels from the open mouth of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).

 A feeding whale is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen.  When feeding, whales gulp a mouthful of water, and close their mouths quickly in order not to let their preys escape.

Then, they push the water through the baleen plates using their powerful tongue as a piston. This way they can filter  the water to collect small fish and crustaceans.



As you can see in this video, this humpback whale keeps its mouth open for few extra seconds. Is it possible that it was waiting to give the trapped birds a chance to fly away? 



It would not be the first time we see humpback whales showing an altruistic behaviour. There is evidence that these friendly giant rescue seals, sunfish and other species from predators (read this article to get more info). 


These photos  are certainly not flawless in terms of definition, contrast and colours. Hopefully they can be interesting and helpful when trying to understand the behaviour of these wild animals.

I do not know if the whale was intentionally waiting to give the bird a chance to fly away, but undoubtedly this time it did not end well for the poor kittiwakes.

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All images © Federico Facchin 2014-2021