Thursday, March 8, 2018

Exotic lunch for Florida herons

On the first of March a "Semi-SuperMoon" set over the lake in our local Wounded Wetlands. It was about 226,137 miles from Earth, while January's "Super Moon" was nearly 5,000 miles nearer. This was unfair to February, which had no full Moon at all, while January and March each hosted an extra (Blue) Moon. On average, this happens only in non-Leap Years, once about every 25 years--  and I missed celebrating my half birthday as well, for the 60th+ time! 

Semi-SuperMoon setting 01-20180301

Today's post begins and ends at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.

Back in May, 2009 I took one of my favorite photos at Shark Valley. I was not sure of the identity of the fish which this Great Blue Heron had caught, but Internet friends identified it as a Jaguar Guapote, native to Nicaragua in Central America.

I learned from Wikipedia that it is a food fish "and is also found in the aquarium trade where it is variously known as: the jaguar cichlid, managuense cichlid or Managua cichlid, guapote tigre, Aztec cichlid, spotted guapote and jaguar guapote. It grows to 55–63 cm (22–25 in)."

Great Blue Heron Catches Cichlid 20090528

I could not believe that the heron would be able to swallow it!

Great Blue Heron Ready to Swallow 20090528

Great Blue Heron Swallows Tilapia 20090528

Great Blue Heron Swallows Tilapia 2-20090528

Hypostomus plecostomus, also known as Algae Eater or "Pleco," is a popular aquarium fish from South America which has been introduced into Florida waters. They  are not venomous, though they do have sharp spines that could cause injury if they are handled carelessly. This was the second time I photographed a Great Blue Heron eating one at our back yard lake.

Great Blue Heron with Plecostomas sp 4-20120606

A drama played out in the same lake after I noticed that a Double-crested Cormorant had caught another  large exotic Plecostomus. The 9-10 inch fish struggled vigorously in the bird's beak, its spiny fins fully extended. I do not know how long the fish had been in the cormorant's grasp, but I watched intently to see if the bird could succeed in swallowing it, or whether it might get stuck in its gullet or esophagus. I watched for about 7 minutes and took poor photos from some distance. The bird won!

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) vs Plecostomus 20110925 103439AM

Cormorant vs Plecostomus 20110925 103854 AM

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with three Internet friends from New Jersey, my home State. Dave was flying into Miami and Kurt, who now resides in Central Florida, met him at the airport. We planned to meet at Shark Valley before noon, so I headed over earlier. Len, who had driven down from New Jersey, joined the three of us. Although we had not planned to spend much time there, it was so interesting that we stayed well into the afternoon. There were phenomenal photo opportunities:


 American Alligator 20180209

...Black-crowned Night-Herons (this one appears to be performing a soft-shoe dance)...

Black-crowned Night-Heron 03-20180209

...but the stars of the show were truly exotic. Florida is home to more than 300 species of exotic fishes. They resulted from intentional and accidental releases from such diverse sources as fish farms, pet trade breeding facilities, spilled shipments and of course, family pets which were freed when it was time to move or they grew too big or were too nasty for home aquariums.

Interestingly, one exotic species, the Pike Killifish was "of importance to medical science as research animals. It is interesting to note that the introduced population in south Florida stems from the release [in 1957] of pike killifish that were the subject of a medical research program whose funding had been terminated." REF: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Further, the FWCC itself released Butterfly Peacock in 1961 "to control other non-native fishes." It is now a very popular sport fish.

The waterways at Shark Valley were teeming with fish, some native but many were "immigrants." Exotic Walking Catfish and Brown Hoplo gulped air from the surface of a canal while herons and Anhingas took advantage of so many opportunities to capture them.

A Great Blue Heron speared a Walking Catfish:

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 001-20180209

After subduing it by repeatedly swinging it down against the ground,...

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 002-20180209

...the heron made several attempts to swallow it, head first,...

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 003-20180209

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 004-20180209

...and finally succeeded:

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 005-20180209

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 006-20180209

Great Blue Heron with Walking Catfish 007-20180209

A female Anhinga captured a Hoplo. A type of catfish, it is robust and has exceedingly sharp spines under each fin. Yet, it somehow went down:

 Anhinga with fish 03-20180209

Anhinga with fish 01-20180209

Anhinga with fish 02-20180209

Anhinga with fish 07-20180209

We did not leave Shark Valley until mid-afternoon, and I felt wiped out by the heat to the point that I feared heat exhaustion might set in. I drank plenty of water and rested in my air-conditioned car for several minutes. Although I felt fully recovered, I thought it best to part with the others, who were heading to Big Cypress Swamp and planned to look for snakes after dark. It was a great day but enough was enough!

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. Thanks for the Fish IDs,
    and a great day at Shark Valley!


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I can't believe those fish with spines that got swallowed. As one who has been "finned" by such fish I can't imagine how rough it would be to swallow them.

    And hunt for snakes in the dark!! You have crazy friends.

  4. Wonderful wildlife photography!! What's that rule... eat anything bigger than your head??!!

  5. One would wonder about the type of digestive system these birds have when they can swallow and digest such large pieces.

  6. Beautiful super moon photo, and very dramatic photos of the heron and cormorant swallowing fish whole--wow!

  7. Wow to that moon shot! Amazing!

  8. Wonderful wildlife captures, thanks for sharing :)

  9. WOW!! What a super moon catch... speaking of catches, your bird vs. fish shots are awesome [almost made me feel hungry].

  10. Hello, awesome super moon photo. Love the herons with the big fish! Thank you so much for linking up your post. Thanks also for the comment and visit. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  11. Hmmmm...looking for snakes after dark...I think I'll pass on that too! It's amazing to see these birds eat such big 'morsels'! It's all so amazing and we are fortunate to get to see it! We watched a small Grebe eat a BIG Crayfish today. It didn't look like it would go down with all those little legs sticking out! lol Enjoy your weekend!

  12. amazing photos....and I wouldn't go looking for snakes regardless of how tired I was or wasn't!!

  13. Marvelous photos! The feeding shots are incredible.

  14. The birds clearly won the day - I can see why you labeled your 'favorite' photo as such - everything about it is top-notch! (And I think you were wise to leave the snake event to the others!!!)

  15. For all the beauty & photos shared, I thank you for adding your link this week at I R B B.

    That moon...gorgeous and all the birds, dining, ... extraordinary!!

  16. The herons with the fishes! Wow! Especially that first shot. Florida is such a treasure trove of photography opportunities, and they are all good!

  17. What AMAZING captures of the beauty in action <3

  18. You're a patient man to wait for the best photos. I've never seen photos of herons eating their prey. Wow! Amazing photos.

  19. Your sure did get some awesome shots of feasting birds. WOW!

  20. WOW, I didn't know herons like to eat that much! Right out greedy! Think you made the right decision - we like to have you here as long as the good Lord allows you! When you feel faint, that's when it gets dangerous. Have a lovely week and take it easy, Blog Friend!

  21. Absolutely lovely photos! I really like the first one! Gorgeous!

  22. This would seem to be a good day for the birds - and a bad day for the fish!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  23. I came to this post from "Reflections" and quickly forgot to look for any! These are great photos of birds eating fish, and I really appreciate your giving the stories of each species!

  24. It's a wonder that the herons don't choke to death - looks like the fish are bigger than their throats!
    Thanks for linking up at

  25. Your photos are just exquisite! I love the details and the colors of you images.

  26. You captured some amazing sights. It looks impossible that the birds can swallow those fish. Glad you hung around so we could see what happened. What fun meeting up with other bloggers.

  27. Wow... you guys were busy.... and, those Herons are meanies....

  28. Those are quite some shots. That Heron and the big fish was pretty cool.

  29. What tasty meals for those birds. I am just glad I don't have to swallow my food whole!

  30. What a day! Wonderful series on the heron's lunch --- we tried to go to Shark Valley when we had guests from out of town, but couldn't even find a parking spot.(we did the Big Cypress trail and we and our guests loved it) .. I didn't know about all those fish. Wonderful pictures and information.


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