Sabi Sands Photographic Safari

The bird-eating heron of the Kgalagadi

Heron in a waterhole surrounded by sparrows

© Ed Aylmer

Written, and photographs, by Ed Aylmer

We have just returned from a two week trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Generally the game sightings were fewer than we have experienced in the past at this time of year, but as usual the Kgalagadi always delivers unusual opportunities to photograph animal and bird behaviour.

We were at the Leeuwdrill waterhole on the Nossob River road when we spotted the arrival of a black-headed heron, just as the morning traffic of Cape sparrows started to build up.

Heron in a waterhole surrounded by sparrows drinking water

© Ed Aylmer

As the sparrows came down en masse to drink, the heron would pace up and down the waterhole looking for potential targets.

Heron catching a sparrow in a waterhole

© Ed Aylmer

Eventually the heron honed in on its target, suddenly shot forward, grabbed a Cape sparrow and proceeded to swallow it whole!

Heron capturing a sparrow

© Ed Aylmer

It was fascinating to firstly see this heron in the Kgalagadi, and secondly to see a bird catching and eating small birds.

Heron swallowing a sparrow

© Ed Aylmer

During our time at the waterhole we witnessed this heron take four successful kills!

Heron eats sparrow

© Ed Aylmer



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