HomeOutdoorsViralHungry Seagull Stuffs Entire Starfish in Its Mouth: PHOTO

Hungry Seagull Stuffs Entire Starfish in Its Mouth: PHOTO

by Caitlin Berard
Seagull Eating a Starfish
(Photo by Jillian Cooper via Getty Images)

With their odd shape and bony, calcified skin, you might think, what would eat a starfish? A seagull. A seagull would eat a starfish. And when they do, they often swallow it whole, protruding arms and all.

Seagulls aren’t the only creature to feast on the occasional starfish, of course. But given that their other predators (crabs, lobsters, bottom-dwelling fish, and even other sea stars) are all sea creatures, gulls are the ones most often witnessed devouring the spiny stars.

An image of a seagull’s star-shaped lunch recently went viral, both for its bizarre appearance and the comical caption added alongside it. “A lot of y’all who said I couldn’t fit this whole starfish in my mouth are real quiet these days,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote on Twitter.

“Commonly called ‘seagulls,’ if you want to impress a birder, just call them ‘gull,'” the FWS added. “There are over 50 gull species on the planet, and approximately 28 of those are native to North America. They eat pretty much everything and will occasionally go whole hog on a big sea star.”

As the FWS explained, seagulls are the ultimate opportunists. They will chow down on dead things washed ashore and dung without hesitation.

They’ll also go after less disgusting food, such as grains, berries, and fish when given the opportunity. And if another bird dares find the food first? The ill-mannered seagull will simply harass them until they give it up.

How Do Seagulls Eat Starfish?

As the image clearly shows, the starfish doesn’t exactly fit easily into the seagull’s mouth. So how does the gull manage to scarf down such awkward prey?

Well, the first step is to take the prize to higher ground. Can’t enjoy a good seafood dinner with waves smacking you in the face, after all. Next, the seagull has two options: shake the starfish until it falls apart or attempt to eat it whole.

While the second option might seem impossible, seagulls have digestive tracts specially designed for such herculean tasks. Using the incredibly strong muscles of its esophagus, a gull will continuously squeeze the starfish as it makes its way down the bird’s throat.

Unlike humans, birds can breathe and swallow at the same time – even with their mouths stretched to absolute capacity. This is because their esophageal and tracheal pathways are not attached and can shift apart, allowing room for breath regardless of the size of the meal.

After digestion, birds will cough up and discard any undigestible components, such as shells and bones. Luckily for the seagull, however, starfish are invertebrates with soft skeletons, allowing the bird to keep every last bite.