If You Want To See A Bird Swallow An Alligator Whole, Today Is Your Lucky Day

Even the mighty (adolescent) alligator isn't safe from these beasts. Scott F Smith / Shutterstock.com

If you've ever wanted to see a bird swallow an alligator (and yes, we are judging you quite a bit) you are in luck, for that is a scene that one wildlife photographer happened to stumble by last month.

Shellie Gilliam, who lives in Florida (where else would you see such a sight, let's face it), was out near Lake Apopka when she saw a Great Blue Heron shortly after it had captured a juvenile alligator in its beak.

According to Gilliam, it "spent a half-hour killing and consuming" the alligator, though she thankfully only uploaded the final few minutes of the meal.

"I spotted it just after it had captured the alligator a few hundred yards away and then the heron flew off with the alligator in his jaws to this spot where he consumed it," Gilliam wrote on Facebook, adding in a comment "the great Blue Heron is A Savage predator. They can eat just about anything they get their beak into."

Great Blue Herons are indeed amazing hunters, with razor-sharp beaks and necks that can snap forward at speed. They will also eat just about anything as long as it's nearby and roughly the right size for a meal, be it a rat, gopher, alligator, turtle, or fish. Though we should point out, it's mainly fish.

If you're wondering how they are able to physically fit the alligator et al inside them (which is a fair question), they have a loose digestive tract and a stretchable esophagus and stomach, which they swallow their prey down into.

They are occasionally known to have eyes larger than their stomach (or esophagus) and die in their attempts to swallow down larger prey. They have been noted to die from attempts to eat carp, frogs, bullheads, and snakes, choking before they could get their victim down their throats. Which is a hazard of the job when you go for prey as big as they do. 

They generally eat prey bigger than other heron species. This gives them the advantage that they can eat larger fish in the same water, and are much more adaptable than other water-dwelling birds with their ability to (upon occasion) hunt small mammals and reptiles on land. 

Generally speaking, they are more likely to be the victim of alligator-on-heron violence than the perpetrator, but as the video above shows, even the mighty (adolescent) alligator isn't safe from these beasts.


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