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Egret and a fish

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#1 Steven Nikkila

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 10:36 PM

I always try to carry my camera with me and sometimes it pays off in enabling me to see and tell some really cool stories with the photos more than the words. The following is just such a story.

8:13:13 pm
I saw this egret while driving down a road, stopped and took this photo. I turned around to set the camera down and drive away, when I heard a loud splash...

8:13:56 pm
Turned back, pointed the camera and started shooting as the egret ran to shore with its catch.

8:13:59 pm
The egret shook off.

8:14:11 pm
Then dropped the fish. By this time I was wondering why the bird hadn't just swallowed the fish like all the other egrets I've seen hunt and eat.

8:14:15 pm
The egret then picked up the fish, a bullhead catfish, by its dorsal fin (the fin on top of the fish). Now I understand why it came to shore. This particular kind of catfish has sharp, stiff spines on its dorsal fin and on the pectoral fins. The pectoral fins are located just behind the gills and when the catfish stiffens up, the spines stick straight out and don't bend. These spines make it very difficult for the egret to swallow the fish without hurting itself.

8:14:23 pm
The bird repeatedly shook the fish while holding on to the spine on the dorsal fin allowing the weight of the fish to help tear or break off the spine. How does this bird know to react this way to a particular fish?

8:14:36 pm
The bird dropped the fish, picked it back up and shook it some more.

8:14:47 pm
It then took the fish to the water and dipped it in.

8:14:55 pm
Took the fish out and shook it some more.

8:16:27 pm
Once the dorsal spine had been torn off, the egret began to work on the pectoral fins' stiff spines. It grabbed the fish by one the spines and shook it letting the weight of the fish help.

8:19:12 pm
The same process, shake, rinse, shake, was repeated.

8:21:16 pm
The egret tested if it could swallow the fish safely.

8:21:57 pm
Taking the fish back out it would again shake it, drop it and pick it back up.

8:22:35 pm
Giving the fish one last quick hard shake,

8:22:38 pm
it flipped the fish head first into its mouth...

8:22:39 pm
and swallowed.

8:22:44 pm
Then got a drink,

8:22:46 pm

8:23:02 pm
and took another drink. This time a much deeper one.

8:23:15 pm
Then, shuttered all over,

8:23:29 pm
stretched the neck out as far as it would go,

8:23:38 pm
took one last drink,

8:24:31 pm
groomed the feathers,

8:24:38 pm
and went back to hunting, appearing to be quite proud of itself.

#2 MG gal

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 06:18 PM

Thanks for sharing these photos. Very interesting about how to eat a catfish.

#3 Beaufort



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Posted 16 July 2012 - 11:02 AM

A wonderful series of photos. Reminds me of how boat-tailed grackles eat ghost crabs -- first pulling off the legs so the crab can't run way, then pulling off the claws. Thanks very much!

(Steve, my friend, "it's" is a contraction meaning "it is." The possessive of "it" is "its." No apostrophe.)

#4 Steven Nikkila

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:34 PM

Beaufort thanks for the "It's" help, I've been working on it. I'm sure the mistakes made you shutter all over.

#5 Beaufort



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Posted 06 August 2012 - 02:11 PM

Yes, I saw that "shutter," too, but not till the second time I read it. :)

#6 Beaufort



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Posted 21 September 2014 - 04:18 PM

On Facebook recently there's been a video of a great blue heron catching and eating a vole! I was amazed it could get the vole down its throat.

#7 PondLinerRepair


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Posted 07 September 2016 - 04:57 AM

How beautifully you have captured all the posture of this lovely egret, you did really a fantastic job. I really appreciate your effort. Thanks for sharing such a natural beauty.

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