While standing on my deck this morning, I was watching a Great Blue Heron strolling slowly around the shallow water near my shoreline hoping to catch a fishy snack. Suddenly it stopped, and headed toward the beach.
Apparently, a small dead fish had washed ashore recently. Even though herons prefer to eat live fish, the heron picked it up anyway (fishing must have been slow). It began to flip the dead fish around in its beak to orient the fish so it could be swallowed head first. Herons always do that so the fish's fins won't stick in its throat.
The fish must have begun to dry out and was probably a bit crusty from lying in the sun for a while. The heron couldn't swallow it. The fish wouldn't slide down the hatch. At that point in time, the heron dipped the fish in the water a couple of times to provide some lubricating juice. That didn't seem to help. The fish was "baptized" a couple more times, then, it finally started to slip down the heron's throat.
The bad news was that the fish got stuck halfway down. You might know that herons have a skinny neck over a foot long that enlarges - allowing slippery fish to pass through. Well, it stretched, but the fish didn't move any farther. I could see a large lump about halfway down its neck where the fish was lodged.
The heron's neck looked like it had a huge Adam's apple that didn't belong there.
I think the some panic began to set in. Further attempts to swallow the fish were unsuccessful, and it couldn't be coughed up. The heron scooped several beaks-full of water to try washing it down. That didn't work. Bobbing its head up and down, and from side to side didn't help either. A toilet plunger might have worked, but the heron didn't have one handy.
Eventually, the heron gave up and slowly walked away. Of course, it wouldn't be able to eat anything because its plumbing was plugged up. I would think that breathing would be difficult too. The poor thing will probably die unless the fish "softens" soon. When or if it does finally slide down the pipe, the heron will likely be more selective about its meal choices in the future.