Great Blue Heron in the Great Salt Marsh

7 thoughts on “GONE FISHIN!

  1. Another good caught the splash and caused me to get curious once again why on certain attributes sourced below the art of deception also…:-) Dave & Kim 🙂

    By Ben Burtt, Post-Standard contributing writer

    0801fmnsbird.JPGCourtesy of Houghton Mifflin Co AT ABOUT 4 FEET TALL, the great blue heron is the largest heron we have around. The first one of the season showed up on our pond in early July and began to wade slowly in the shallow water near the shore. Some books describe it as gray-blue, but it always seems to me that it is better described as gray.

    Herons such as the great blue heron, are quite skilled in catching fish. Their method is rather simple. Usually they stand motionless in shallow water. When a fish comes by, out goes the long neck and the fish is seized. The heron moves around slowly, but most often they just stand still and wait until a frog or a fish comes within reach. The other common heron in Central New York is a much smaller bird, the green heron. It is about a foot- to a foot-and-a-half long. This heron gets it name because its back is a glossy green. The neck is a dark chestnut color. It is also skilled at catching fish. It uses the same general techniques as the great blue heron.

    Both of these herons have developed a unique way to catch fish using bait. This was first observed by Prof. H.B. Lovell of the University of Louisville, Ky., who was vacationing in 1958 near Lake Eola, in Florida. Many people were there feeding bread to ducks. As an experiment, Lovell tossed a small piece of bread to a green heron which was standing at the edge of the water. The heron picked up the bread, which was not unexpected. However, Lovell was surprised to see that the heron soon dropped the bread back in the water and then very intently watched the floating bread. If the bread drifted almost out of reach, the heron retrieved it and dropped it close to his feet again.
    Suddenly his head went into the water and he came up with a fish. This was repeated so often that Lovell concluded that the heron was using the bread as bait to bring fish within reach. The heron carries the bread until a fish is sighted and then drops the bread in front of the fish. While the fish is busy investigating the bread, the heron has an opportunity to devour the fish.

    Herons use both natural and artificial bait. Living creatures that they drop include flies, ants, dragonflies, spiders and earthworms. The herons have also tried dropping tiny objects in front of the fish that show up. They have tried dropping small seeds, bits of grass, short twigs, bits of Styrofoam, or natural downy plant material. That is, they drop something on the water and the fish move in. Fish that respond will quite likely be eaten by the heron.

    Benjamin P. Burtt writes about birds every other week for Stars. Write to him in care of Stars Magazine, P.O. Box 4915, Syracuse, NY 13221; or features@syracuse.com (put “birds” in the subject field).

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