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Question
Hello I'm in 8th grade and was curious about an event I saw fishing with some friends recently.

I recently saw a Great Blue Heron dive catch quite a pretty large (and colorful!) rainbow trout crosswise in it's bill, you could tell the fish was fighting for it's lfe to prevent becoming the bird's dinner. It looked like the fish was putting up a good struggle, but within about 30 seconds the wriggling thing was turned face-first and the heron swallowed the entire fish down its long neck the whole way!! It was a bit gruesome to watch the poor fish squirm on it's presumed last trip down, even after, once in the stomach you could see it give a kick much to the discomfort it appeared to the bird. We didn't stay much longer, I wonder if that was the end for the fish or if it still had a slim chance of survival???

Does it stand any slim chance of escaping such a grim fate or at least damage the bird's insides with that thrashing?? It must be a some meal for the bird and I wonder if it handles it bones and all as well?!

Answer
The great blue heron has a remarkable ability  to swallow and digest just about everything it catches, not ony fish but also frogs, crabs and even small mammals. It swallows everything whole like an owl does. It does not have a crop like other birds but it has a stretchable stomach and a gizzard for digesting tougher parts like bones. They have been known to choke on overlarge prey.
In the case you describe I am afraid that the fish met its end with no chance to escape and the birds stomach lining is tough enough to withstand the thrashing.
 I remember a few years ago while I was fishing off shore on a small canal in Florida a Great Blue landed on the bank opposite me. I was catching small fish about 6 to 8 inches long. I threw them to the Heron who caught them in midair and wolfed them down headfirst I must have thrown 8 or 9 to him.
We tend to thing of our own eating habits when observing other animals. With the Heron it is just a matter of obtaining energy.
 As gruesome as it may seem the fang and claw activity is a fact of nature
 THe Great Blue Heron is a remarkable and beautiful bird.
Keep up your observations and curiosity Kyle. More 8th graders should be like you

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walter hintz

Expertise

I can answer questions from kids in all grades in the areas of general science, biology and nature study

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I have been a teacher for over 55 years and have spent many years doing hands-on science with elementary and middle school students.

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The Ohio Journal of Science
Momentum: The Journal of the Catholic Educational Association

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B.S Ed Kent State University
M.Sc. The Ohio State University

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