The Big Gulp (Series of Photos). Here the first photo in this series, captured as the bird first arrived. Click the photo and then scroll or click the 'next' arrow to see the entire series.
Have you ever tried to consume an entire meal in a single swallow? Me neither, but for a Great Egret, that’s just business as usual.
My buddy Eric and I were fortunate enough to catch this discriminating gourmand in the act of seizing and scarfing its breakfast – a sizable rainbow trout - at the Bubbling Ponds Fish Hatchery (Page Springs, Arizona). The bird was amazingly tolerant of us – it ignored our approach, being instead totally engrossed in its own sustenance. Priorities are priorities, apparently (and the creature was probably pretty accustomed to birders visiting around these ponds).
After initially snatching the unfortunate fish, who was more than slightly displeased with the encounter, the egret tossed it around to position it headfirst in its gullet. Then it was “down the hatch”! Or rather “down the neck” – the descent of the fish towards its final resting place was easy to follow.
When the trout reached its destination, the Big Gulp was capped off with what seemed to be a Big Belch of Satisfaction. And when we came by again less than an hour later, the bird was clearly trolling for dessert (but came up empty this time).
What’s remarkable is the degree to which the bird can extend its neck plus how agile and quick it was – so much so that I missed the initial plunge when it caught the fish (but captured a couple others before and afterwards). For a creature that’s basically built like a pterodactyl, it’s quite proficient!
Image ©2020 James D. Peterson
Tech info: Nikon D850 camera with Tamron 150-600mm lens at 150mm. Exposures varied due to changing light conditions: 1/320 - 1/1000 sec. at f11, ISO 1000-4000.