Lake Superior is dotted with several thousand Ring-billed Gulls, leisurely floating on a placid surface. An unexpected pair of Western Grebes joins them. A lone Bonaparte’s Gull floats by. But I’m on the sand beach of Wisconsin Point primarily in search of a nasty species of bird. The bird is the Parasitic Jaeger and it makes its living blatantly mugging gulls in broad daylight. The photo above details their sinister m.o. Winging hard and low, the jaeger flies towards a flock of unsuspecting gulls. The flock erupts in panic as the jaeger singles out a gull, possibly noticing that that gull has a full crop. The jaeger dives and pecks at the terrified gull, harassing it mercilessly. After several attacks the gull may actually vomit up its last meal. This is exactly what the jaeger wants. It then turns its attention from the gull to the vomit, scooping up the predigested treat in mid-air. Amazingly, this is their most common method of feeding. It may not be surprising then to learn that jaeger means ‘hunter’ in German.

Migrating from their winter home on the open ocean of the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds in the High Arctic, the vast majority of Parasitic Jaegers travel up either the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts. But some overland wanderers find themselves on Lake Superior, which is ocean-like enough for them. If there are gulls to be terrorized, then there will be food. Mid September to mid October is jaeger time.

And right on cue, a Parasitic Jaeger comes in for some fun about 300 yards off shore. I rip off about 50 shots. Not my best jaeger images but a memory of a neat encounter.

Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, f5.6 at 1/2000 (1/3000 for chase image), ISO 200

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