Video: Giant tortoise filmed stalking, killing and swallowing baby bird
[YouTube Screenshot/Fair Use/Live Science]

Tortoises are not hunters. They are widely considered as gentle plodding herbivores that mostly munch on vegetation and not stalking prey. 

Footage of a giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) hunting, killing and eating a young noddy tern (Anous tenuirostris) stunned scientists on Frégate Island in the Seychelles, an archipelago off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean

Eventually, the tortoise swallowed the baby chick whole.

Except for eating snail shells or consuming carrion bones for calcium, tortoises have always been considered vegetarian.  

But since the tortoise video was released, researchers have also observed other tortoises on the island engaging in similar predatory behavior. 

Experts believe this newly developed hunting technique was brought about by the peculiar combo of an enormous giant tortoise population and the recolonization of tree-nesting seabirds on the private island.  

The ground underneath the forest canopy where the colony of birds nest is littered with chicks that have fallen from nests and dead fish. 

“When I saw the tortoise behaving strangely, I watched, and when I realized what it was doing, I started recording,” Anna Zora, co-author of the study, said. 

Scientists said that potential prey was too fast or agile to be caught by giant tortoises in most places.

The way the tortoise stalked the bird on the log was an indication that this type of predation frequently happens on the island, the researchers said. 

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