Ever wonder why fish-eating herons and egrets are often seen standing in fields? This video provides some clues. This Great Blue Heron caught and killed four gophers in a row without a miss! Two gophers were swallowed and two were left uneaten. The first gopher was quite large and took some effort and lubrication from a water puddle to swallow. Herons have been known to choke to death while trying to swallow large prey, but not this time.
I was surprised to see the heron continue to hunt and kill more gophers than it ate. I suspect that it enjoyed hunting for fun as well as for food. I filmed the heron for about 90 minutes in the late afternoon. I don’t know how many gophers the heron may have caught before I arrived at the scene.
The heron struck the gophers so hard that they appeared to die very quickly after the first blow. Gopher #4 was struck only once; and then it was quickly dropped to the ground. The heron watched it for about 15 minutes, as if to see if it moved, and then walked away without eating the dead gopher. The heron appeared to continue to hunt for more gophers as darkness fell. I got cold and went home.
I filmed this event on March 17, 2012 at Miller Knox Regional Park in Pt. Richmond, CA, along the San Francisco Bay Trail after several days of heavy rains. The gophers on this fateful day may have been more vulnerable than usual due to partial flooding of their burrows after the recent rains. I used a Panasonic GH2 camera to capture the footage.
If you have issues with gophers damaging your garden or landscape, don’t you wish you could rent a Great Blue Heron like this one for a few days?