A few hours after Boston got hit with two feet of snow, I went to Jamaica Pond to see how the birds were doing. While big chunks of the Pond were frozen, there was a large central area free of ice. All the water fowl had congregated near the northwestern shore. I saw Canada geese (Branta canadensis), American coots (Fulica americana), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), mute swans (Cygnus olor), ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis), and, surprisingly, a pair of pigeons (Columba livia).
All was quiet until I noticed a sole great black-backed gull make its move on a ring-necked duck.
The gull, the largest in North America according to Sibley’s Guide, kept pecking the duck in the mid-section and chomping on its wings. The duck struggled but was unable to escape. While other geese and ducks were mere feet away, they did not come to the ring-necked duck’s aid, nor did they raise an alarm. I was unable to spot another ring-necked duck so this one may have been the only one of its species and the gull may have singled it out knowing that no bird would come to its defense.
After a couple minutes, the gull dunked the duck under water, sitting on it and drowning it.
The gull then kept chomping on the duck until it was able to bite off chunks. This was nature at its most brutal. The kill was slow and methodical, and in sharp contrast to the calm of the snowy pond.
More winter birding at Jamaica Pond: