The Striated Heron
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
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.
Do you have herons where you live?
Heron using bread as bait
- Striated Heron (Butorides striata) :: xeno-canto
Listen to the sound of the striata Butorides This link page is a little confusing.When there, scroll down past the red line and you will see a play button on the left of each entry.
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.
More about the birds here in our garden in Brazil
- The Wattled Jacana
This beautiful wading bird is a daily visitor here at our home in Brazil. Their wide feet allow them to walk on the surface of the water across lilies giving them the name 'Jesus Birds'.