If you’ve ever wanted to see a bird swallow an alligator (and yes, we’re judging you quite a bit) you’re lucky, because it’s a scene that a wildlife photographer stumbled upon last month. Shelley Gilliam, a Florida resident (where you can see such scenes from elsewhere, face it) came out near Apopka Lake when she saw the Great Blue Heron shortly after capturing a teenage alligator in her chin. According to Gilliam, it took him half an hour to “kill and swallow the guardian”, although he gratefully only uploaded the final few minutes of the meal. Gilliam wrote on Facebook, “The Great Blue” wrote in a comment, “I saw it when I grabbed the alligator a few hundred yards away and flew this plane with the machine in his wrists with his rebuke.” Heron is a savage hunter.
The Great Blue Heron is actually amazing predators, with razor-sharp beaks and necks that can move fast. As far as they are close and almost the right size to eat they can eat almost anything, be it rats, gophers, feces, turtles, or fish. Although we should mention, it is basically fish. If you are wondering how they are able to physically fit carcasses et al in them (this is a fair question) then they have a loose digestive tract and an enlarged esophagus and stomach as they swallow their prey.
They occasionally appear to have eyes larger than their stomachs (or esophagus) and die trying to swallow larger prey. They are thought to have died trying to eat carp, frogs, bullheads, and snakes, holding their breath before descending from the victim’s throat. This is risky to work on when you are the victim of large prey.
They usually eat prey larger than other species of heron. This gives them the advantage that they can eat larger fish in the same water and adapt much more than other aquatic birds, including the ability to hunt small mammals and reptiles on land. Generally speaking, they are more likely to be victims of Alligator-on-Aaron violence than criminals, but as seen in the video above, even the strongest (teenage) elite are not safe from these animals.