The dolphin’s ability to strand feed is a testament not only their intelligence, but also to the teamwork and communication skills they have in order for this technique to work.
In order to perform this “strand” behavior groups usually contain a group of dolphins, including some with exceptional swimming skills. When preparing to strand feed, dolphins raise their eyes up from the water and check what’s happening on shore before they move in. They form lines next to each other as their leader starts off waves creating an advancing bow wave forcing whatever gets caught up onto the shore.
Dolphins herd them close together and then take turns rushing through the tightly compacted group while snatching as many preys as they can. They roll and thrash to stun the stranded fish, making them easy prey. The group follows closely behind making sure no fish escape. Look out for them performing this display at low tide.
Scientists believe that strand feeding is risky because it puts the dolphin at risk of stuck on land.
The downfalls of this technique include sunburns and even death if they get stranded on shore. The dolphins always strand feed on their right sides, and scientists suspect that it has something to do with physiology. Over time, dental wear and tear due to abrasion against sand or mud occur on the right side of their mouth and jawline. But feeding the pod must outweigh these risks.
Another unique hunting behavior is “pinwheeling.” This takes place when an individual dolphin encircles the prey. Positioned on its side with one pectoral fin out of the water, the dolphin traps fish by tightening circumference, before it goes in for the kill.
Click on this link to see a short video of pinwheeling: IMG_2003.
There are few experiences in life more pristine than strand feeding. But please maintain a distance while witnessing the beauty of this process. Its efficiency combined with power makes for something you will never forget!