Playing With Your Food – Great Blue Heron

September 11, 2009

Nature Notes by Bill Dunson

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I watched this great blue heron with a small mangrove water snake it had caught for about 15 minutes at Stump Pass State Park, FL. It just kept handling the snake, flipping it around, and avoided eating it as if to say that it really did not want to eat a snake today!

Maybe it was already full up with fish, or maybe it was going to take the snake to a nearby nest on a mangrove islet and feed its babies (note breeding plumes). Maybe the bird wanted to be sure that it did not get bitten in the stomach when it finally swallowed the prey. I do not know, but the whole procedure seemed so different from the feeding of gulls, terns and pelicans that must gulp their catch down immediately or risk losing it to a competitor.

I was surprised to see that the great blue had caught a snake since these are mainly nocturnal reptiles anyway, and not seen that often.

Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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