Hungry Hunting Heron

I spent a couple of hours at Attenborough Nature Reserve this morning. Among my spots were three different butterfly species on the same plant, a sandpiper and a little grebe with a youngster but I am devoting this whole posting to my encounter with a grey heron looking for a meal towards the end of my visit.

It was carefully stepping through shallow water covered with a thick blanket of water weed. I presume it was feeling for vibrations made by anything moving under the surface rather than by sight. It stepped into deeper water and then aimed its powerful bill at a particular spot.

‘Gotcha!’ This is the biggest fish I have ever seen caught by a heron. It is a massive tench. Gripping it firmly the happy hunter makes for a shingle spit while attempting to manoeuvre its prey into the ‘head first’ position for swallowing.

Its eyes seem to be bulging with the effort as the lower half of its mouth distends into something like a pelican’s pouch. Eventually the hapless fish heads down the heron’s gullet making an enormous bulge in its neck. The heron then took a few beakfuls of water to wash it down. Judging by the time stamp on my pictures this whole process from snatch to swallow took about four minutes. I suspect it may not need another catch for some time.


  1. birdingbirds · August 4, 2021

    Perhaps the music to accompany this might be ‘ “Heron” a G String’?

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  2. beestonbirdman · August 4, 2021

    Only if it’s an afishionado of Bach


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