November 2018 Bird of the Month

Romance: Nest building together! Great Blue Heron
© Dennis Huff  01 Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands
Canon EOS 7D EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM, ISO 400, 300mm, 1/640, f/8

Smart Bird

I have watched blue herons wade the shallows looking for prey for years.  However last month during a rainy day and an especially high tide I observed a blue heron foraging in a different way.   After landing on the pier, he walked to the end and hopped down onto the floating oyster cage.  Stepping across the coated wire mesh top he then curled his toes around the edge of the PVC frame.   Bending his knees he lowered his body and when securely balanced he began to compress his long neck into an S shape.  He kept his eyes firmly on the water as he lowered his head.   Ever so slowly he continued to bend his knees so that his body was even closer to the water.   Then he would raised his body, just a little, to get a better look at his possible prey and then lowered his body again.  His movements so closely followed the way I have seen a cat move when it looks like it is ready to pounce on its prey.   Like lightening he darted his dagger sharp bill into the water and came up with a fish!   The fish was about six inches long and very narrow.   He turned to look at me, tilted his head up and the fish was swallowed whole.   I could see the movement as it made its way down his throat and neck.  He must have been hungry for he tried again and after a few minutes he again came up with another fish.   Finally satisfied he flew away.   Another week passed and when he came again he used the float  to get closer to the deeper water.   I realized this method of foraging did not disturb the fish the way his wading feet did in the shallows.  I wondered how he had discovered this method and would he remember next year.  

FYI: Many studies have been done on the intelligence and behavior of birds.  One theory known as optimal foraging states that an animal will minimize its energy spent in obtaining prey.  This blue heron certainly did that.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society