Capturing a Heron Regurgitating a Pellet

Today I’m sharing two photos I took last August 11 of a young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron regurgitating a pellet at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. I was parked on the side of the auto tour road, photographing this young heron as it was catching and eating crawdads. I knew that if I continued observing this bird, I might get lucky and see it regurgitate a pellet, which they often do after eating lots of crawdads. I didn’t have to wait long before this heron faced me and regurgitated a pellet, allowing me to capture these photos.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Meal Comes Back Up
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Meal Comes Back Up
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Expels an Indigestible Pellet
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Expels an Indigestible Pellet

Young herons like this one regurgitate pellets as a way to get rid of indigestible parts of their prey like shells, scales, and bones. It’s an efficient method for them to free up room for more food while also getting rid of waste. As a wildlife photographer, I find the pellet regurgitation process fascinating to observe and document.

These two shots capture the dramatic moment just before and as the pellet emerged from the heron’s mouth. The first image shows the bulging neck as the pellet moves up the esophagus. Then, in the second photo, you can see the slimy, undigested contents of the pellet falling out. The heron appears to strain slightly as the sizable pellet exits.

I feel fortunate to have been at the right place and time to photograph this natural wildlife event. It’s not every day you get to capture a scene like this! I’ve photographed several other birds regurgitating pellets which you can see here: Green Heron Expels Impressive Pellet and Eastern Kingbird Regurgitating Pellet.


Equipment Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R7
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Technical Details: First Photo

  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: August 11, 2022 (10:10 A. M.)
  • Program: Manual
  • Aperture: f10
  • Shutter speed: 1/3200
  • ISO: 5000 (Auto)
  • Exp. Comp.: 0
  • Focal Length: 500 mm