Walrus Plays Duck Hunt, Confuses Scientists
Is this walrus looking for a duck to snack on? Image credit: flickkerphotos/Flickr
If a walrus is filmed attacking a duck for the first time, does it mean the behavior is new? This is the question a group of scientists is pondering after a helicopter-mounted camera captured the never-before seen activity in the Bearing Sea.
The walrus was filmed attacking spectacled eider ducks like these. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
The footage was captured by a crew of natural history filmmakers from the BBC who were in the area to study the massive gathering of the migratory birds. Typically native to the coast of Alaska and northeastern Siberia, the spectacled eider ducks migrate to the Bearing Sea each year to mate. Jeff Wilson, the director of the BBC shoot, explained:
This is where the world's entire population of spectacled eider comes during winter.
While observing the paddling of ducks, researchers and filmmakers noticed sudden starbursts of birds taking flight at once from the middle of the group. On closer inspection, the found that the birds were moving to avoid a walrus that was attacking them from below.
Suddenly in the middle of the starburst a walrus came up. It then started to chase the ducks. It was pretty obvious it was hunting them.
Typically, walruses feed on bottom-dwelling molluscs like clams. Though they have been observed eating birds before, this is the first time a walrus has been filmed attacking a group of ducks. Because the walrus made repeated attempts to catch a duck, researchers believe that it is a common feeding strategy.
Though it is believed that the walrus could have a significant impact on the population and behavior of overwintering spectacled eider ducks, it will take more time before a definitive understanding can be achieved.