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Greedy Gull Mugs A Puffin In Sky

PTI 28 Jan 2010, 13:10:25 IST

The Mail, London has published amazing images that capture the moment a puffin was the victim of a mid-air mugging by a greedy gull.

The puffin got a nasty shock when it the raider swooped in to snatch a haul of sand eels from its beak.

The smaller seabird, which would have had to work hard for its beakful of fish, was taken totally by surprise during the airborne smash-and-grab.

Stand and deliver: the puffin gets a nasty shock when a black headed gull swoops in

Unable to fight off the larger bird, the shocked puffin simply plopped to the ground as the black headed gull made off with most of its catch.

Award-winning amateur photographer Lee Davis managed to capture the aerial ambush as he was taking pictures of puffins on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland cost.

The large-billed seabirds, which grow to around a foot tall, nest on the islands and feed on a variety of small fish.

They are famed for their ability to grab and hold a number of fish in their beak at once - a practice which made this one a target.

Mr Davis, 26, said he was just about to leave the island when he spotted the puffin fly round the headland, presumably taking its catch back to a hungry brood of chicks.

He said: 'I saw the puffin about 6ft off the ground, began to track it and as it got closer I spotted it had a beak full of sand eels.

'Just as the puffin flew close enough for me to get a shot I saw the gull swoop in from above and go straight for the eels.

'The gull managed to snatch a load from the puffin's beak and the poor puffin dropped straight to the floor.

'The gull must have been pretty pleased and flew off with a mouth full of eels and the puffin with only a few left.'

Mr Davis, a mortgage advisor from Leeds, added: 'Puffins leave the nest for a couple of hours at a time so that could have been the result of a fairly long fishing trip.

'Black headed gulls on the Farnes sometimes mob puffins in the hope they might drop a few sand eels to be left alone, but it was very unusual this one actually made impact.

'I was pretty shocked but even more surprised when I looked at the back of my camera and saw I had managed to get such a good shot.'

Atlantic puffins nest in burrows on the Farne Islands, under boulders or in rocky crevices. There are thought to be up to 50,000 pairs at any one time, making the islands a draw for naturalists.

Black-headed gull tend to grow to around 1ft 6ins tall, with a wingspan of up to 3ft 6ins.