Getting rid of the pellet

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A Yellow-crowned Night Heron taking it easy on one leg.

While fiddling with the settings on a new camera, which was pointed at a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) as the unsuspecting actor, I accidentally recorded this shot. Because I was not ‘officially’ recording, I did not pay any attention to the viewfinder. Only later, while sifting through the shots of that day, did I notice the amazing behaviour. Having followed the movements of a pair of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) in the past, I am familiar with their daily regurgitation of a pellet containing the indigestible remains of that night’s meal. But that comparable behaviour was also part of the ways of the Night Heron was totally new to me. The behaviour is not that weird, if you think about it. They feed on fiddler-crabs (Uca), sometimes on larger crabs, and also fish. In general they’ll try to crack the carapaces and extract the goodies, but invariable will swallow some of the chitinous fragments. The bird can not digest this material, so out it comes, after a while. From the top end. The process itself looks somewhat unhealthy. I first thought the bird was suffering from convulsions and would die. Nothing of the sort. Just some crop cleaning taking place.

Leon Pors

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