Walking through the Orlando Wetlands last night, after a heavy rainstorm, I spied this Great Blue Heron trudging up out of the water with a tasty catch firmly speared on his long, dagger-like bill. The Heron spent a few moments shaking the unfortunate fish, who soon gave up the struggle. It is believed that this action breaks or relaxes the sharp spines of the fish, so that it is easier to swallow whole. (All About Birds)Herons, egrets and other water birds may toss their meal into the air so that it will slide smoothly down the throat. But this fish appeared to be quite an easy mouthful. In no time, the hapless fish disappeared down the Heron’s gullet – the entire sequence took less than 60 seconds. All that remains is a final tell-tale lump in the Heron’s long neck.
According to Audubon, the Great Blue Heron “thrives around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coastline of southern Alaska.” (Audubon.org)
The largest herons in North America, Great Blues are very adaptable, and “live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, and also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields”. (All About Birds). Though their typical diet is comprised of fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects, Great Blue Herons are also known to eat small mammals, and even the eggs or chicks of other small birds.