This has to be the craziest thing I have ever seen…
Herons are cool birds that can be found all over the world. They are well known for their ability to hunt fish and other small animals in shallow waters.
The only freshwater eel in the United States, American eels are long, thin fish that are found in rivers and estuaries along nearly the entirety of the Atlantic coast, as well as the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River. They are known for their ability to use their heads to burrow into the sand or mud at the bottom of the waterways, making them difficult to spot and catch.
Despite this, herons have developed a method for catching these slippery fish.
When a heron spots an eel, it will slowly and carefully approach it, keeping its beak pointed towards the eel. Once it gets close enough, the heron will strike with lightning-fast speed, impaling the eel on its sharp beak. The heron will then maneuver the eel into a position where it can swallow it whole.
Herons are good at catching eels but the eels have also developed their own methods of defense. If an eel feels threatened, it will quickly burrow into the sand or mud, making it almost impossible for a heron to catch it.
This heron was photographed eating a snake eel out of the water. It takes off flying but the photographer noticed something fishy about it.
The eel began to make its way out of the bird’s chest and neck area. Yes, you heard that right, the eel literally punched through the heron’s neck as it was trying to swallow it down.
It used its hard head to punch its way through the birds ineck so it could break free. The bird is seen flying and standing all while the eel makes its escape right out of its side.
A rare occurrence no doubt, but according to Live Science, it’s not unheard of. However, punching through the skin as well as the digestive tract is far more uncommon.
John Pogonoski, an ichthyologist with the Australian National Fish Collection at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, says eels usually won’t get through the muscle tissue:
“Usually they don’t get very far. Once swallowed, snake eels can use their hard heads or tails to bust out of the digestive tract, but usually end up in the predator’s body cavity, muscle tissues or swim bladder.
Once trapped, snake eels often “become ‘mummified’ or ‘encysted’ and die rather than escape.”
Like a scene from a horror movie…
Nature is a crazy place.
Night Heron Dunks Baby Duckling
Herons don’t get the credit they deserve for being some of the most skilled hunters in the animal kingdom.
There are 64 different species of herons, including egrets and bitterns, but they all prefer to do their hunting on the edge of water bodies, patiently stalking the shallows for anything they can spear with their harpoon-like beaks.
The water birds will also opportunistically snatch prey with their beaks and feet when they can. Their unique hunting style makes them incredibly efficient predators, and my favorite bird to observe in the wild.
While raptors like eagles and hawks are well known for their ability as airborne hunters, highly carnivorous herons are just as adept at their own hunting style.
They’ve been known to eat pretty much any living thing that might be found in shallow water, including fish, lizards, snakes, crawdads, crabs, and all other kinds of crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects. Even rodents.
Herons are also known to manipulate their food, tossing and turning it until it goes limp and then lining it up so it slides easily down their throats.
The fiercely carnivorous nature of the birds and the practice of manipulating food is perfectly exhibited in a wild way by this black-crowned night heron downing a baby duckling in one gulp.
The big bird even dunks the baby bird into the water like it’s a warm chocolate chip cookie splashing into a cold glass of milk in order to ensure a smoother swallow. Absolutely brutal if you’re the duckling, but probably pretty tasty if you’re the heron.