You mean THAT’S gotta fit in HERE?

You may remember my teaser photo of this Great Blue Heron eating a fish a couple weeks ago, where I showed you the close-up view of the fish’s eye as it entered the mouth of the heron. This one:

Great Blue Heron with big fish in mouth - part of series w sig

Well here’s a series of pics showing the process of catching the fish and managing to get it down the throat. I’m always amazed at how deftly they manage to handle a slippery fish with no hands. Enjoy! (I’m making some assumptions about behavior here, so keep that in mind as you read my notes.)

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (1)

So he grabs the fish and pulls it out of the water, immediately turning to the shore so it won’t be able to swim away if he drops it. (Click on any picture to see it larger, and I apologize that these pics aren’t very sharp — I had to crop them all.)

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (9)

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (13)

It’s still alive at this point, so I think he’s laying it down so he can deliver the killing blow.

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (17)

Yep, that ought to do it. But, hmm, now it’s got dirt all over it. What to do, what to do?

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (22)

Oh, I know…I’ll wash it off. (It could also be that he needs it to be wet to facilitate swallowing. I’m not sure how important it is to “wash” it.)

Dipping it back in the water
Dipping it back in the water
Getting it turned around...
Getting it turned around…
Ok, getting close...
Ok, getting close…
Oh yeah, here we go...
Oh yeah, here we go…
Going down the hatch
Going down the hatch

I always think it’s so cool how you can see the outline of the entire fish in the heron’s throat! I don’t know much about fish, but I think this might be a white bass.

Going down the hatch
Going down the hatch

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (59)

I learned something really interesting about the Great Blue Heron today. Not only do they eat fish, but also sometimes amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. And, here’s the cool part: They expel pellets of indigestible mammal hair, just like owls do! Did you know that? Apparently they can digest the bones, unlike owls, who expel bones in their pellets along with hair. I only learned a couple years ago that these pellets are expelled through the mouth rather than the other end of the body. I guess I never really thought about it much, until the day I saw a captive Northern Saw-whet Owl regurgitate a pellet right in front of me at an Audubon event. Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?

Great Blue Heron eating big fish (66)

Fish? What fish?
Fish? What fish?


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these pictures, Kim! We have a huge population of herons near where I live, and a Great Blue Heron bird sanctuary. I’ve never seen one actually swallow a fish.


  2. Kim, you are too cool… capturing such an event and then talking about hacking up pellets. This is the stuff I love to read about and I learn so much from! Those photographs are stunning… and your comedic narration had me in stitches! I am anxious to see more from your week!


    • Glad you enjoyed it, Lori. I had fun with it. And I hope to keep plowing through all my photos of the Biggest Week before the memories fade too much. (I have some news to share with you via email too…very exciting.)


I love your comments -- talk to me here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s