Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Fishing, Night-Heron Style

Black-crowned Night-Herons (BCNH) are pretty distinctive birds. They aren't abundant, but are widespread and most often found in areas near large wetlands. The huge wetlands adjacent to Lake St. Clair and the rivers emptying into the lake are prime locations to find them.

One day not that long ago I had the opportunity to watch a BCNH fishing in a large channel right along the gravel roadway where I was parked. Since I was waiting for a train to pass, I noticed this bird, and then lingered for almost an hour longer watching the heron's behaviour. Even though I was no more than 25 metres from the bird, it didn't pay any attention to me that I could tell. As any prepared bird photographer would do, I had my camera and telephoto lens on the seat beside me ready to go. All of these photos were taken from the vehicle.

Herons are noted for their patience. This one was standing motionless on a small log barely out of the water, hoping for a fish or frog to come within reach.
They will move very slowly and deliberately to a new spot if the current spot doesn't produce.
 If there is an indication of something potentially available, the bird will hunch down, getting poised to strike.
 It happens in a flash, and surprisingly the bird had no problem getting back to its feet after extending itself so far out into the water, and with the additional weight of a fish in its beak.
 It only took a few gulps and the fish was gone. I couldn't see the fish clearly enough to tell what kind it might have been.

When the action wasn't happening, I noticed the heron do something I had never seen before. It would stand at the edge as before.
 And then it would slowly put its head down with the open beak in the water. It would then slowly open and close the beak, stirring the water slightly. I suppose this gentle stirring of the water might trick a fish or a frog into thinking that there was an injured critter of some sort at the water surface, and it would come to investigate the possibility of a meal, only to become a meal itself!
I never saw the heron actually catch something as a result of doing this, but I noted the bird try it on several occasions in different places when it wasn't catching anything else. If it wasn't an attempt to catch a fish or frog, I have no idea why else it would be doing it. Any ideas?


  1. What a wonderful pictorial account. He has patience - but then so do you!

    1. Thanks, is always a learning experience!