This is the moment a hungry cormorant almost bit of more than it could chew as it tussled with a giant mullet – before swallowing it whole.
The incredible pictures show the bird pluck the hefty fish from the water in its beak before engaging in a lengthy struggle in front of stunned onlookers on the riverbank.
The determined cormorant finally bagged the thick-lipped grey mullet before painfully swallowing the 1kg fish whole.
A cormorant usually requires between 200g and 500g of food per day, so this represented more than twice its average daily intake.
Its highly elastic throat allowed the cormorant to gobble the pike down whole within seconds
The epic feast was watched by walkers who lined the banks of the River Tamar, Torpoint, Cornwall.
Neil Hope, 47, was preparing for a dive when he snapped the feast.
He said: ”I was just chatting on the jetty when I saw the cormorant dive. I grabbed my camera and trained it on the spot and luckily it came to the surface with this giant fish.
”It was pretty persistent and spent a good five minutes wrestling with it before finally gulping it down, which was no mean feat.”
The final shot shows the fish’s tail poking from the cormorant’s mouth, which they slowly swam to the bank to rest and digest.
RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead said: ”While much of their diet consists of small fish, it is not unheard of for cormorants to tussle with much bigger prey.
”Their digestive system is different to humans and they swallow the fish head first in the direction of the scales, it then lies in the bird’s gizzard, where it slowly breaks down and is finally digested.”
The cormorants – which have been known to swallow prey up to two-and-half-feet long – are such good hunters that in China fishermen use them to catch their fish.
Throat rings are placed around the necks of the birds to prevent them from swallowing their catch.