Great Blue Heron
The first time I saw a Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, catch and eat a gopher I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought of great blue heron eating frogs and fish, but here in winter they hunt in grassy areas for gophers. We're still amazed when we see blue heron catching gophers in our yard and eating them whole! These photos were taken from inside our house and through the screen and window so the quality isn't that great, but I just had to share this amazing site.
This is an immature great blue heron. I can tell due to his smaller size and lack of plume feathers on the head. For the last three years I have seen great blue heron in the same nest and have observed the young as they grow bigger each day. Both parent heron feed the young in the nest for several months before they are large enough to fly away.
This heron was in our back yard for over an hour walking slowly across the lawn, pausing occasionally, motionless, waiting for movement in the grass. When the heron spied the gopher, it struck with lightening speed extending it's long neck and grabbing the gopher. After the heron caught the gopher, he held it in his beak for almost ten minutes while the gopher squirmed trying to get away. We also noticed when the heron was holding the gopher, he kept his neck curled up and close to his body, probably to better handle holding the weight of the gopher in its beak for that length of time. We surmised the heron was waiting for the gopher to tire before the heron swallowed it.
We have seen other heron flick gophers with their beaks up into the air catching them with their neck extended upward and swallowing them whole. We have also seen heron catch gophers in the Spring and carry them off presumably to feed their young in the nest. After this heron swallowed the gopher, he rested in one spot for a while, then he went back to hunting for more gophers in the grass.
Here's another great blue heron who landed in the deodar tree, Cedrus deodara, in our back yard one day. What a beautiful and regal bird.