National Geographic ruins the illusion that maybe larks and mockingbirds might be safe from shark attacks. Nope. Songbirds are being found in tiger sharks’ stomachs:
Marcus Drymon, of Dauphin Island Sea Lab, has been studying fish off the Alabama coast since 2006. During a routine sampling in 2009, he pulled a tiger shark onto the deck of his boat to tag and release it.
“He coughed up some feathers,” Drymon said.
That in itself wasn’t unusual, he said. Tiger sharks in other parts of the world are known to eat marine birds. But once Drymon analyzed the feathers in the lab, he was fairly sure they had come from a terrestrial bird.
So Drymon and his team launched a project to study the sharks’ diets. Over two years the team caught 50 tiger sharks—mostly within 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 kilometers) offshore—and dissected their stomachs.
In about half of the sharks, Drymon found “feathers, or beaks, or bird feet, or some kind of bird part.”
All the parts were later found to originate from land birds such as woodpeckers, tanagers, and meadowlarks.
So how do sharks catch songbirds?
By using oil rigs:
Oil-rig lights often disorient migrating birds, making them crash into the rigs or fall into the water from exhaustion, said Christine Sheppard, bird-collisions campaign manager for the American Bird Conservancy.