I just watched a National Geographic documentary "Unseen Islands: Atlantic Arks" and there was some thing strange in Tristan island. Some small bird which changed its diet to feed on the blood and meat of the penguins on this island.

I want to know more about this bird - or its name so I can search it - and if there are other examples of this behavior of changing diets.


1 Answer 1


You almost certainly mean the Tristan Thrush, Turdus eremita, which is endemic to Tristan da Cunha. The species is considered to be an opportunistic omnivorous scavenger, but their diet includes the eggs and chicks of many seabird species, as well as the adults of some smaller seabird species.

The Wikipedia page for the species mentions that Tristan Thrush has been recorded drinking penguin blood, citing a BBC documentary which I don't have access to. Five species of penguin have been recorded on Tristan da Cunha, but only the Northern Rockhopper Penguin breeds there (the others are rare visitors to the island). Given the nature of penguin colonies (i.e., densely-packed, and with abundant chicks as well as occasional sick adults), there would be many opportunities for an opportunistic omnivorous scavenger to eat penguin blood, chicks, eggs, or carrion.

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    $\begingroup$ The BBC documentary is “Southern Ocean”, the second of three episodes in the BBC Four series Britain’s Treasure Islands. A YouTube upload is available here; the Tristan thrush is introduced at 13:22, and at 13:54 you can see one pecking at a live(!) penguin and drinking blood from the open wound. $\endgroup$
    – George Law
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 1:18

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