This past Saturday morning, 15 July, I was at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at 5:30 AM, heading out onto the East Pond in order to see shorebirds for high tide, which was going to occur at roughly 6:30 AM. With me were Seth Ausubel and Tom Preston and the three of us were eager to find something rare. As we worked our way up the east side of the pond Seth noticed that one of the young Great Blue Herons at the Raunt, a bit north of us still, had caught a Sand Lance and was having a hard time figuring out to swallow it. I took a couple of shots of the comical situation but the distance and the lack of light made further shooting seem senseless. (You can see one of the shots at the top of this post.)

I had already moved onto other birds with my binoculars when Seth, who had stayed watching the heron, said that an adult heron had decided that if the youngster couldn’t swallow its food that it was going to take the food and eat it! I jumped back to my scope just in time to catch the opening of the conflict.

Great Blue Heron attack

Well, alright, I almost caught the opening of the conflict but the darn birds jumped out of the frame. Nonetheless, you can see that the youngster still has a grip on its breakfast.

Great Blue Heron food fight

My second shot was a bit better in terms of getting the birds in the frame and, check it out! The Sand Lance, still held by the younger bird, has now wrapped itself around the adult’s neck!

Great Blue Herons battling

They landed and momentarily disengaged but the older bird came right back after the youngster.

Great Blue Herons throwing food

On the adult’s third attack the young bird had taken enough abuse, and tossed its breakfast.

Tom, Seth and I continued north, scoping shorebirds as we went. Though we didn’t find anything spectacular we had a good morning out enjoying the shorebirds and the company. And on the way back down the pond we saw this:

Great Blue Heron as a vegetarian

No one will bother me if I eat vegetables. No one wants vegetables.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.