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The Striated Heron

Updated on January 24, 2016
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Striated heron
Striated heron | Source

Butorides striata

No movement is detected until a rapid stab at the water breaks the surface and a small fish is pulled out. This skilled and patient fisherman has caught another.

One of our most frequent visitors to our lakes here at our home in Brazil, is the striated heron. No matter what time of day or night, there always seems to be at least a few. These will either be perched on one of our tilapia cages, waiting at the water's edge, or wading through the shallows.

We welcome them as they take out the smaller fish that are competing for the food of the tilapia we are rearing.The heron will eat small fish, prawns, frogs and insects. This varied diet is possibly one of the reasons why this bird thrives and other species with more specialized diets tend to suffer and decline in numbers.

If the heron wishes to look threatening to others it will open its wings and lengthen its neck. When it is on the move from one spot to the other, it will often stay crouched down and run. I assume this is to keep the fish from seeing them.


Photos by Fotografipro. All rights reserved


Close up of a Striated Heron
Close up of a Striated Heron | Source
A Striated Heron looking for a fish
A Striated Heron looking for a fish | Source

Getting Up Close to Herons

To say that these herons are tame is a mistake, they are wild birds. What I will say is that they have become accustom to our movements, our fish feeding times, and they make the most of this knowledge. They know that we don't chase them or make sudden movements to disturb them. It is this trust that has allowed my husband to get these photos.

I have moved on a boat to within 3 feet of one who was trying to eat a fish that was too large. He had one eye on me whilst moving the fish around in its beak to start at the head of the fish. This encounter went on for about 5 minutes and he didn't seem disturbed that I was there. It is amazing to see wild birds this close! The detailed patterns on their feathers can only be appreciated up close.

Heron perching
Heron perching | Source

Do you have herons where you live?

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Heron eating a dragonfly
Heron eating a dragonfly | Source

Heron using bread as bait

Herons using bait

A few months ago, my husband appeared at the back door and said, "You aren't going to believe what I have just seen!" This actually isn't that uncommon for him to say, as much of the wildlife here in Brazil still amazes us.

What he saw this time was the heron using bait. Let me explain.We feed the fish in the lake with a floating pellet food. The heron would sit on the opposite bank and watch the fish come to the surface to eat this. After awhile, it began to move a bit closer to where we feed and in the end the heron began arriving before us at feeding time.

The heron picked up a pellet of fish food and gently place it on the water. Then he waited, stock still, for a fish to come up for the pellet. If he was lucky it was a small fish and he would stab at the water and catch the fish. If the fish was too large, he would look for another pellet. If the pellet floated to the bank, the heron would push it back out into the water. I too witnessed this when I was feeding from a boat. The heron would grab a pellet that had landed near a cage he was perched on and fly off with it to the shore. The smaller fish that stay near the edges were what he was after. He waits just a few minutes and with lightening speed, stabs and withdraws a fish. The small ones go down easily but often I have seen them with one I know is too large for them to swallow. This doesn't stop them trying, though.They will even carry this to another place if they fear another bird will try and steal it. They keep moving their catch around in their beak to eat it head first thus keeping the dorsal fin of the fish down. Eventually, if the fish is too large, they will give up and the stabbed fish will be discarded.

This behavior isn't unusual though. People have seen them using feathers, seed pods and even bits of bread to encourage a fish to the surface.

I always love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Peachpurple,

      Thank you for those kind words. I feel very privileged being able to watch the birds this close.

      My husband is the photographer, and he too is amazed at just how close we can get to wild birds.

      Thank you for the vote.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wonderful and awesome hub on these heron birds. Great photos too. I love to read yr experience when you got close to the birdie. Awesome feeling, isn't it? Voted awesome

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Lipnancy,

      I love watching the wildlife come and go. We haven't had a TV since we moved to Brazil 3 years ago and do I miss it? Not a bit. The wildlife is much more entertaining. Once you are out of that constant input of advertising, that is when you can appreciate so much more.

      As always, wonderful to hear from you.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I grew up with herons around our lake an then later at my parents place in Florida.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Teaches12345,

      Thank you, I am pleased you enjoyed the article. The photos, were all taken by my husband. I have neither the patience or the photographic skills to capture images like these.

      As always, it's a pleasure to hear from you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      We love have herons here, but not this species. Your post is very interesting and you did a great job of designing the content. Love reading about animals in general and I love your photos.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Mackyi

      It is amazing. When I lived in Britain, I had to get in the car and go to either a bird reserve or for walks in the country to find birds. Now I just open my front door. We get such a wide variety here. I plan to write more about the different ones. I hope you will read and enjoy those as well.

      Thank you for your comment

    • profile image

      mackyi 4 years ago

      Thanks for educating me on the heron. It's interesting to learn the way they hunt for food. You mentioned that they place a pellet of fish feed in the water then waited silently for a fish to surface --- that's such a smart survival instinct! It must be fun for you just watching them!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Avianvoice,

      I am pleased you enjoyed it. We are lucky to live so close to water, it brings so many different types of birds in. We have counted almost 90 different species that visit our gardens and lakes. A great place for birdwatching.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Your heron is similar to the Green heron, who also likes to bait. This is a great story, and I enjoyed it a great deal. Kudos!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Mhatter99,

      I know people have mixed feelings about them. I have heard of them taking fish out of back garden ponds. This must be frustrating for some. However, it is nature, and they do what they do.

      As always, great to hear from you.

      Thanks

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Flashmakeit,

      You're are welcome, I am pleased you enjoy the article and photos.

      Thanks

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Flashmakeit,

      They, like so many other birds are incredibly intelligent. The term 'birdbrain' does them a disservice.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this. There is a lake and a large pond near my house, so occasionally a heron stops in my yard.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

      That is a very smart bird and some beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

      That is a smart bird and I know it is interesting to watch because this article really held my attention. I also enjoy the photographs. Vote up!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Mecheshier,

      I am pleased you enjoyed it. They are one of the easier birds to photograph here because they allow us to get quite close. Others need a bit more stealth and cunning.

      Thanks again for the vote.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

      It is funny you mention the herons in England. A couple of weeks ago I was looking through some photos I took of herons in England. They were like a pin prick, they were so far away. We are so lucky to be living so close to so much wildlife.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      Wonderful Hub. Great pics and info. I love the green color around the eyes, it makes them even more mesmerizing. Thanks for sharing. Voted up for awesome and interesting.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Fabulous pictures and really interesting to read about the herons using bait to attract fish and also that they have become accustomed to your presence. British herons always seem very skittish by comparison, but then I don't see the same ones on a regular basis.