Gone Fishing with a Green Heron

Green Heron Use Bait to Catch Prey

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Our day hiking off Esopus Creek in Mt. Tremper, NY, was even more enjoyable when a Green Heron dropped by. Or maybe it was the other way around since we were clearly on its turf.

Stopping at a stream to photograph the beautiful scenery of the fall foliage, we hear a loud “kyow” as a Green Heron flies up the creek, and then moments later hear a loud thud as the bird lands close by.

It’s always a treat to see these birds in the wild since Green Herons are often heard but not seen.

Many of the places we enjoy hiking, like along lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, and streamsides, are places where we find these birds living off the aquatic habitat.

View of the Esopus Creek in Mt. Tremper, NY. Site of Green Heron’s fishing hole

These Birds Prefer Solitude

Herons always seem “nervous” in the wild and don’t appreciate when we infringe on their turf, often honking to let us know we’re a nuisance.

We don’t blame them. These birds appreciate their solitude.

The last thing we want to do is give the bird a reason to make its explosive skeow call. If you’ve heard this call, then you know what we’re talking about. You can listen to it here.

To play it safe, we stay far back as the Green Heron goes into full hunting mode.

It’s a thrill watching this bird in action.

The Green Heron stomps over the roots and through thick vegetation, standing on rocks close to the water’s edge until it finds the perfect spot.

And then it stops, and that’s where the fun begins.

Taking the Bait

We watch the bird grab an object with its beak, most likely a twig or leaf (we’re too far away to tell), and then drop it into the water as a fishing lure.

Green Herons are one of only a few North American bird species that use tools to capture food.

Green Heron stomps over roots and through thick vegetation to find the perfect spot to fish

Standing stoic, the bird doesn’t move its legs but raises its crest in anticipation. The Green Heron patiently waits for the fish to investigate and then nervously flicks its tail.

This motion signifies the fish must be biting and using its dagger-like beak, the Green Heron extends its neck in a swift motion. Then milliseconds later, Thwack and swallows the tiny fish whole.

If only humans could make sushi this quickly!

Dining options were so plentiful for the bird that it has tiny fish hanging outside its bill. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet for this bird.

Coexisting with a Green Heron

Since this bird is so secretive and hard to find because of its iridescent green coloring, you have to act like a heron to coexist in the wild if you want to observe it or take photographs.

We offer this advice.

Practice more patience than a heron. And wear earplugs. Skeow!


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