Oct 09 2008
Yesterday afternoon, I was out in downtown Lewes along the canal and photographed some Laughing Gulls in the parking lot of the public boat launch. Below, I’ve assembled a short series of photos into a flash video. Watch it once or twice to see if you can spot anything strange. A tip: click the “play” button at the lower left of the player rather than the big one in the center of the video frame–if you use the big central one, your cursor gets a bit in the way.
Did you see it? Here’s the third frame, a bit larger (and even larger, if you click it):
There’s clearly a shiny little loop of some kind of fluid being ejected by the front bird. At first I thought it was spitting, but I wonder if it’s really sneezing. I didn’t notice it at all at the time.
I first became aware of just how copiously gulls salivate when I was a kid feeding them bread–my hands often wound up soaked, not to mention nicked by their surprisingly sharp-edged bills. So when I saw the little ring of droplets, I assumed I’d photographed spit.
But the loop shape is peculiar, I think. As I looked at the photo, I saw how the fluid seems to come from two places–the bill tip and the nostril.
At the risk of Seinfeldian overanalysis, I’m thinking that the fluid originated from the nostril, then dripped down the side of the bill. Feeling this, the bird shook its head, sending the the offending goo looping off into space. That’s my guess.
But even if I’m correct, questions remain. Is this really saliva, or is it more like mucus? Seems like it’s important which fluid comes out, as well as where it comes out of.
Can anybody provide a better/more informed explanation of what this bird is doing?