Over the weekend Will and I visited another local museum: this time Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham (Hampshire, England). I particularly liked the several bird paintings they have on display, one of which – the one you can see here – was duplicated and enlarged and used as the back-drop to a case of stuffed local birds.
Despite strenuous efforts I’ve failed to find out who the artist was: the website gives no information, and if there was labelling I somehow missed it. It’s not Charles Tunnicliffe by the way [UPDATE (added January 2010): the artist is Dan Powell. See comment 12 below].
Anyway, the painting you can see above was my favourite. It shows an Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus (or Parasitic jaeger if you’re North American) deftly manoeuvring in flight to grab a Sandwich tern Thalasseus sandvicensis; as a result of this harassment, the tern is dropping the fish it was carrying. The term ‘kleptoparasitism’ – used yesterday in connection with Razorbills – might have been new to some of you. Here it is in action: it refers to what you might also call piracy, essentially the habit of harassing other birds to release their catches such that you – the kleptoparasite – reap the rewards. Or, as Nelson (1980) said, ‘It is an active pursuit aimed at compelling the victim to drop or disgorge its catch’ (p. 52). Skuas and frigatebirds are specialised kleptoparasites that gain most of their food this way (as much as 90% in Arctic skuas), but it is also practised by some gulls and terns. Indeed kleptoparasitism is so prevalent in some seabird communities that the behaviour and/or appearance of various species seems to have become modified such that they might avoid it. We looked at this previously when discussing boobies. Enough – must stop..
Incidentally, the Hayling Island Jungle cat was on display at Westbury Manor Museum once. I guess it did a local tour. Coming next: RHYNCHOSAURS! Probably: I currently have no internet access at home, so have to go on a long trek every time I need to check my emails, or post here. Sigh.
Ref – –
Nelson, B. 1980. Seabirds: Their Biology and Ecology. Hamlyn, London.