Diet

Sheathbills are omnivores, they eat substantial amounts of both plant and animal matter. Because they live in harsh environments where conditions often change quickly, sheathbills are opportunistic feeders that are able to take advantage of whatever food becomes available. In most areas, sheathbills feed largely on the eggs, chicks, and even excrement of penguins and other seabirds. They also try to intercept adult seabirds returning to feed their chicks and either steal the food outright, or jostle the adults enough that some of the food is spilled. Food obtained in this way is critical to sheathbill survival, but does not have a very large impact on the seabirds. Sheathbills will also eat carrion, dead and decaying flesh, usually dead seal pups, as well as seal placentas, the organ that attaches to the uterus during pregnancy. When foods derived from seabirds and seals are unavailable, sheathbills survive by eating seaweed and invertebrates.

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