Amateur Photographs Prove Herons Feed On Stingrays

Posted by David Ozanich — 12 Apr 2011

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Danny Dolan was out walking on the Mississippi Sound when he captured on film the first photographic proof that herons feed on stingrays. I'll give you a moment to catch your breath after hearing this BREAKING NEWS. Seriously though, until Dolan's photographs were examined by scientists, they didn't even know this was possible. AL.com has the story:

A longtime camera buff, Dolan focused on the bird and started shooting, unaware that he was capturing an event so rare that scientists were unsure it was even possible until they saw his pictures.


The heron made a number of unsuccessful stabs in the knee-deep water, then thrust its head beneath the surface and held it there for what Dolan considered an unusually long time. He kept shooting as the water around the bird began to boil.

Ultimately, the heron emerged with a salad-plate-sized stingray spiked on the end of its bill.

"It was perfect timing, right place, right time. I couldn't believe what I was seeing through my viewfinder when he came up with the ray speared on his bill," said Dolan.

He happened to have a telephoto lens with him on that Biloxi beach because he'd been photographing his sons' football game at Nichols State University. This fortunate discovery has led to a scientific paper (of which Dolan is a co-author) being published. Just in case you want to know exactly what went down on that Mississippi shore here's a good description:

Dolan shot more than 200 images of the catch, the most compelling of which began with the ray spiked on the end of the heron's bill. The bird then started working the two halves of its beak back and forth in the hole poked through the ray, while occasionally dunking the creature underwater. Slowly, the hole got larger. After a few minutes, the ray was dead.

If you're interested to see more, there is video here.

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