The bird-eating fish: now online

Five days ago I put up some information about and the trailer for the new BBC series”Blue Planet II”, narrated by David Attenborough and starting this Sunday from 8-9 UK time. In my post I much regretted the prequel not showing one amazing finding that the Torygraph singled out when describing the show:

Among the most astonishing discoveries was made in the Seychelles where filmmakers found that predatory Giant Trevally fish leap into the air, to grab sooty terns on the wing.

“A fish that launches itself, missile-like, to take birds from the air, sounded too extraordinary to be true,” said Miles Barton, Producer for the Coast episode.

“Despite it being a fisherman’s tale there was no photographic evidence to back it up. I haven’t been out on a shoot in 20 years where I haven’t had at least a still picture of the behaviour to go on. So I was sceptical, to say the least.

“We arrived and got very excited because yes, there were splashes everywhere, the fish were leaping out of the water and they did seem to be grabbing birds. They’re amazing shots. A genuine bird-eating fish.”

The new footage proved for the first time that the fish have the intelligence to spot moving birds in the air from underwater, and calculate the light shift so they can leap at just the right time to catch their moving target.

But now reader pyers, whom I applaud, has found the BBC’s two-minute clip showing the Trevally grabbing terns both on the water and flying above it. It’s an amazing clip, and you can see it by clicking on the screenshot below (trigger warning: nature red in tooth and claw!) And see it soon, as it might be taken down.

Truly amazing: the fish have to see that bird from underwater and do rough intuitive calculations to anticipate where the tern will be when the fish jumps:


  1. Damien
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    “A genuine bird-eating fish.”

    I hate to be that guy but I am pretty sure I have seen sharks on TV eating birds.

    Bird eating fish(es?) are not new.

    • nicky
      Posted October 28, 2017 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      No, but it is the first time we see them being plucked from the air, I think.

      • bonetired
        Posted October 28, 2017 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Plenty of fish eat birds – pike in the UK are notorious for eating ducklings – but it is the fact that these fish are taking the birds whilst they are flying that is so extraordinary.

  2. Damien
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    You can google “shark eating bird”.

    Here is an example :

  3. michael95blog
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Fly flishers with the ways and the means (and the time) go to great lengths to catch giant trevally (GT) while wading the flats in the Seychelles.

    Also, I have witnessed a large mouth bass leap from the water to catch (successfully) a dragonfly flying above the water’s surface, and I have had a large mouth bass leap from the water to strike an errant lure dangling several inches above the surface of the water.

    • Mark R.
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I was wondering what the major difference is in catching a flying bird vs. a flying insect. It would seem an insect would be harder to catch than large bird. Either way, it’s obvious that fish have evolved a keen eye-to-mouth trait within the water and without.

  4. Posted October 27, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink


  5. Steven E
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    As for other bird eating fish (not necessarily while flying) northern pike here in Canada are known to eat ducklings, and catfish in Europe have been filmed eating pigeons

  6. Diane G.
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Not directly related, but other sea creatures that eat birds:

    • Posted October 28, 2017 at 8:43 am | Permalink


      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 28, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink


        I’ve been “into” the the transsexual tongue-eating fish louse for a while. It doesn’t kill the fish, it just parasitizes its tongue. After rendering the tongue useless the louse affixes itself to the stump and acts in place of the tongue. The fish continues to live its life, just with a transsexual louse for a tongue. I think there are numbers of public officials whose tongues are parasitized by transsexual, tongue-eating lice.

    • nicky
      Posted October 28, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Fascinating indeed, but it appears more like scavenging than active hunting.
      I’ve seen anemones eat jellyfish and also (once) a jellyfish eating an anemone. I have no idea what factors determine the outcome of such battles.

  7. Posted October 28, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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