Have You Seen This? Giant petrel gets up close and personal with birdwatchers in South Africa

A curious giant petrel gets up close and personal with a hiker in South Africa.

A curious giant petrel gets up close and personal with a hiker in South Africa. (ViralHog via YouTube)

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THE COAST — When I think of birdwatching, I imagine peering through binoculars at far flung patches of trees or bushes in hopes of catching a quick glimpse of something as it flits from branch to branch.

That's not the experience a pair of birdwatchers looking for albatross had in South Africa's Marion Island several years ago. This pair was suddenly approached by a giant petrel, that appeared to glance through their binoculars and nipped at their jackets for a minute or so.

"A southern giant petrel came over to investigate if we were friends or food," one of them said.

I guess the petrel, which are typically quite aggressive, decided the couple were friends, not food, though it may have been disappointed they didn't leave any morsels behind. Commonly known as the "vultures of the Southern Ocean," according to eBird.org, southern giant petrels are known for scavenging at sewage outflows or fishing boats, and often follow ships in hopes of snagging any refuse.

It may not have been the albatross the couple was hoping to spot, but the personal interaction is likely something they won't soon forget.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for KSL.com. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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