Heron Eating a Rat in New York City Sparks Awe: 'The Star This City Needs'

A great blue heron that was spotted eating a large rat in New York City on Sunday has sparked awe on social media.

David Barrett, an avid birdwatcher and photographer who runs the popular Twitter account Manhattan Bird Alert, snapped fascinating images and video of the incident, which occurred on Sunday morning at the Central Park Pond.

The great blue heron is a large wading bird that is found near bodies of water across much of North America and Central America. The large birds can reach head-to-tail lengths of up to around 54 inches and can weigh as much as 8 pounds.

In a Twitter post, Barrett said: "Great Blue Herons eat plenty of fish, but they won't pass up a meaty and filling New York City rat."

"It took the Great Blue Heron only a few seconds to lift the rat, once killed, out of the water and swallow it—this morning at the Central Park Pond," he said in another post.

Several social media users praised the heron for its actions, joking that the bird was providing residents with a beneficial service by reducing the population of New York City's infamous rats.

"Rat heron is clearly the star this city needs," one Twitter user, Willy Blackmore, said.

Rat heron is clearly the star this city needs

— Willy Blackmore (@willyblackmore) September 5, 2021

Meanwhile, another Twitter user, identified only as "Emily," said in reference to the heron: "Can we get one of these on every corner?"

Twitter user Ryan Nanni suggested that the great blue herons might serve a useful purpose in the New York subway system.

"Well f*** let's put thousands of herons in the subway," he said.

John Levendosky thought the city should go even further. "Does this make that Blue Heron the new Mayor of NYC? Because it should. At the very least we should make the whole species the new official City Bird," he said.

In the footage captured by Barrett, the bird can be seen swallowing the rat whole in a few seconds, while standing in the pond.

One social media user asked whether the rat was still alive while it was being swallowed. But in a response, Barrett said that the small mammal was dead and had likely been "speared" by the heron and possibly then drowned.

Barrett told Newsweek that he had come to Central Park to shoot wildlife photos and videos, when he saw a "promising scene" on the east side of the pond, near 60th and Fifth Avenue.

"I saw the heron from a distance appearing to be eating something," he told Newsweek. "As I zoomed in with my camera, I saw that the heron's victim was a large rat, and I got one photo of the bird while it was mostly still, dipping the rat in the water to make it easier to swallow.

The video below is shared courtesy of David Barrett @BirdCentralPark on Twitter.


— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) September 5, 2021

"Then the heron started moving its neck, so I switched my camera to video mode and was fortunate to get footage of the bird swallowing the rat, a process that took only a few seconds. It appears longer in my video because I used slow-motion replay," he said.

Barrett said he had never seen a great blue heron eating a rat before, although he has seen a black-crowned night heron consuming one.

"It's unusual to see! The large size of the rat made it all the more impressive," he said.

The diet of the great blue heron consists mostly of fish, but Barrett said they will eat pretty much anything they can catch, commonly frogs, crayfish and crabs.

Less frequently, they will eat small birds and small mammals, such as mice, voles and rats.

Correction 09/09/2021, 6:02 a.m ET: This article was updated to correct the potential weight of a great blue heron.

Great blue heron eating a rat
A great blue heron eating a rat in New York City's Central Park Pond. David Barrett