A warning: this one is a little gruesome, and there are photos that some may find offensive. You’ve been warned.
This is Southern Giant Petrel, by any measure a big bird. More than three feet long and with a wingspan of nearly seven feet, this 11 pound bird is another top-tier predator in the Southern Ocean. Note the naricorns, the tube-like structure on top of the bill. It’s part of the mechanism these birds use to expel excess salt. They don’t need fresh water; they can live on salt water.
The bird’s suspicious stare is for a Brown Skua considering raiding the Petrel’s nest. Two Skuas were making a coordinated attack, one from behind WC and one from the left. They were unsuccessful.
Now the gruesome stuff.
At Elsehul Harbor, on South Georgia Island, a Southern Giant Petrel found a stillborn Southern Fur Seal Pup.
But where one Southern Giant Petrel has found a meal, there will very quickly be two.
Almost as quickly, there was a full-fledged (sorry) mob of the big birds in a noisy squabble over who was going to get a meal.
In the chaos that followed, there were no decent photo opportunities.
Unlike a lot of other Southern Ocean endemics, the Southern Giant Petrel populations are in decent shape. Long line fishing seems to be the biggest threat, killing 4,000-8,000 birds a year. So far, those losses have not impacted population levels.