As our day was almost complete at Viera Wetlands (see the previous post, “East Coast Adventure”), we had an opportunity to watch a life and death struggle. Driving around the bend of a pond, we spotted a Great Blue Heron which appeared to be tugging at a root of some sort. Wait, that’s not a root, it’s a snake! I pulled to the side of the road, turned off the engine and for the next half-hour watched a fascinating encounter. I believe the snake was a Florida Banded Water Snake and it was about 42-48 inches (106.68 – 121.92 cm) long. These are non-venomous snakes and are fairly common in wet areas throughout the state. The snake fought back but was no match for the heron’s powerful beak and jaws. Once the heron actually began to swallow the snake, it only took 60 seconds for it to down all but a small section of tail. The snake was obviously still alive as you could see the tail instinctively wrapping around the bird’s beak. Most of the snake was gathered at the rear of the heron’s neck and it took another five minutes for it to finish swallowing the meal. Once again, we were reminded that our natural world is all about survival.
The heron already had the snake by the tail when we first saw it. The snake has its tail wrapped around the bird’s beak and you can see its head just above the ground.
Big Blue clamps down with his powerful jaws to try to subdue the serpent.
Now he has a better hold on the snake’s head and I thought he was ready to gulp it down.
The snake wrapped itself around the beak again and its tail drilled down into the mass of reeds in order to grab hold of some roots.
The heron simply pulled up the snake and roots all in one tangled ball.
Once he had a better grip on the snake, he was ready to position it in preparation for swallowing it head first.
The snake struck at the heron repeatedly throughout this encounter and clamped down on its beak several times. This snake is not poisonous and at most the heron may have received some scratches and bruises.
The heron turned away from me as he began to swallow the snake. It appears as though the snake “bunched up” at the back of the heron’s neck. Whether this was due to the snake trying to crawl back out or if it’s by design, I don’t know.
It took less than a minute for the heron to swallow all but a little bit of the snake’s tail. Even at the last, the snake is wrapping its tail around the bird’s beak.
As the snake’s tail swipes across the heron’s eye, you can see how the snake is still located at the back of the bird’s neck.
It took almost five minutes to finish swallowing this snake.
The Great Blue Heron is quite an efficient hunter. I don’t know how long it will be before he needs to eat again after this meal.
I didn’t post these pictures to be “gross”, but simply find our natural world fascinating, including the never-ending struggle for survival.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.