Interesting cetacean story: Vol 1
Here’s a interesting little story about a young 9 year old captive female orca called Bjossa who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium. She lived with an 18 year old male called Hyak and 6 year old male Finna.
For some reason, Bjossa never really bonded with the other two whales in the tank, maybe due to the unnatural social structure of not having an older dominant female to take control.
The two males got along well and would regularly play together, leaving Bjossa to herself much of the time. So she befriended the sea gulls who would hang around the pool, hoping to get some free fish.
At the end of a show, the trainers would feed the whales whatever was left in the food buckets. Keeping these fish in her mouth, she would swim to the edge of the pool and open her mouth and allow many birds to take the fish directly from her mouth.
Sometimes between shows, if she didn’t have any fish, she would open her mouth and allow the birds to peck at her mouth and tongue, sometimes to the point where it would bleed and she would require veterinary attention.
Over time, she developed another feeding game where she would hover about a meter underwater and the gulls would dive under to take food from her mouth. She would spend a lot of time spyhoping to keep an eye on where ‘her’ birds were.
The birds could tell the three whales apart and would fly away whenever the two males tried approaching them.
A quote from a study on her behavior said -
“Although the gulls’ reward is obvious, that to the whale is not. It is possible, however, that the gulls are an important source of “entertainment” for Bjossa. Captive animals live in restricted environments and thus are unable to exhibit the full range of their behavioral repertories In some cases, this may lead to novel forms of “self-amusement.” For example, there are many accounts of captive dolphins “playing” with other species that share their enclosures, including birds, turtles, fish, and other cetaceans. In Bjossa’s case, the “need” for alternative forms of behavioral stimulation may have been accentuated owing to social factors within the group.Perhaps the best analogue to the whale-gull interactions as described here is the relationship between humans and their pets”
Source - Killer Whale Shares Food With Gulls at the Vancouver Public Aquarium. Charles Nordquist and Michael Hutchins. Department of Psychology, Animal Behavior Program, University of Washington, Seattle. 1985.