Southern Vultures

Apart from the garbage men of the penguin colonies, there are also the vultures. No real vultures, they have never made it this far south, but the two species of giant petrels are useful in taking that role.

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Northern Giant Petrels fighting over food

Just as the Snowy Sheathbills, they are not the prettiest of birds. They actually have something prehistoric over them. The birds in these pictures are Northern Giant Petrels from South Georgia, recognisable by the red tips on their bills. They are very opportunistic feeders. They will feed on anything dead, but do not hesitate to kill something themselves as well. This is never really a pleasant sight as they don’t have the claws and hooked bill as real birds of prey have. These guys usually already start feeding on a bird or seal pup when it’s still alive. It can take fifteen minutes, or even longer before the bird finally dies. In this case, it wasn’t clear what the birds were feeding on or how they had gotten it. The only thing that mattered at the moment was who was going to eat it. There was a large group of Northern Giant Petrels around it, and they all wanted to have a bite. But hey, that’s life on South Georgia.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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