I started to walk out onto the boardwalk in Ponce de Leon park the other day. Just as I stepped on it I saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the railing looking intently into the mangroves. I stopped and got an insurance shot in that position.
While he was obviously keeping an eye on me, he kept looking to the mangroves. I eased a bit closer to see what he was watching but couldn’t see anything. He stayed still though, unwilling to give up his perch and I was able to get a good closeup.
He thrashed around in the branches for a few seconds and then turned to show me what he had caught for breakfast, a nice sized mangrove crab. Then he turned away and began to crush it in his beak.
These birds have a crop, like a chicken and other birds, the crushed crab goes into the crop where digestion begins. The meaty parts of the crab and the shell grind together. The meat and offal passes into the stomach and from time to time, the bird expels the shell through it’s beak. You can often find the bits of crab in the area. Where the insects pick them clean.