Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. —John Muir
We’re finally getting drenched with some much-needed rains in South Florida — the swamps and Everglades are thrilled, I’m sure of it. Last Monday alone, we received ten inches from the sky… TEN INCHES. That kind of downpour creates flash flooding, and the accompanying high winds (and lovely lightning) can wreak havoc on birds’ nests.
During a quick visit to the wetlands between the raindrops, it was obvious that there was much repair to the nests being done throughout the preserve. As I was blankly staring at a turtle (I love our turtles), I caught some commotion deep within a Pond apple tree, one that’s been an annual home to nesting Green herons. Mom had just returned with branches to repair the nest, and her little ones were obviously expecting food — and visibly unhappy about the sticks over the food.
On the lookout for mom
All babies are sweet, but Green heron babies are little cantankerous puffs of adorable.
She’s not that way, either…
And back she flew to the wetlands, to high commotion, for more nest-building materials. So much work to be done; babies still needed their food….
[For all you locals: If you’re as fascinated by the area’s water cycle and flow as I am, check out Go Hydrology in my “Florida Nature Blogs” to the right — fantastic daily updates and general information!]
Usually our Green herons are very shy and difficult to spot, patient and motionless as they are in our wetlands — their signature kuk or kyow calls are heard more often. [Click here to listen to their calls!] But when I do hear them, I search in the pond apple trees and cypress for their moppy crowns, in the hopes of catching their fascinating hunting process.
Green heron close-up, pre-hunt
These guys have always been one of my favorites in our wetlands — perched high in the beautiful cypress trees during the approaching dusk. And the smarts on these little herons! Green herons will often drop bait onto the water’s surface — including live insects, berries, twigs, or feathers — to attract fish. The more curious the fish…the more likely they’ll end up as dinner at the quick thrust of the heron’s sharp bill. I’ve often seen them snap off twigs and leaves for bait, carrying it to secretive hunting areas.
I will find you….
This hunting technique, and their use of tools, has earned the Green heron the well-deserved distinction as one of the world’s smartest birds.
A moment of rest
I am so lovely, yes?
Preparing for the hunt
Do whatever you do intensely. —Robert Henri
I encountered this Green Heron — one of my favorites in our wetlands — perched high in the beautiful cypress trees, stalking its dinner during the approaching dusk. He sat with such intense focus (that face!), that I admired in silence for the entirety of his watch.
But this guy wasn’t just watching; he was most likely waiting. Green herons will often drop bait onto the water’s surface — including live insects, berries, twigs, or feathers — to attract fish. The more curious the fish…the more likely they’ll be dinner at the quick thrust of the heron’s sharp bill. This hunting technique, and use of tools, has earned Green Herons the well-deserved distinction as one of the world’s smartest birds.
When I hear their signature kuk or kyow, I search for these shy guys and their moppy crowns, in the hopes of catching them hunting. Click here to listen to their calls!
Green Heron hunting in the wetlands… FOCUS!
Green Heron eyes a meal in the wetlands… PATIENCE!
It’s always great to see some of the shyer residents of our wetlands, and the Green Heron is one such critter. Small and stocky, they’re similar to other herons in that they remain motionless as they hunt for their meals in swampy and coastal areas. Interestingly, the Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds: it will drop various baits and lures — in the form of bread crusts, insects, twigs, or feathers — onto the water’s surface to attract small fish.
This male adult green heron was most likely guarding his chosen nesting site (nesting and baby season is in full swing), in the hopes of attracting a mate with his brilliant displays. Although they’re not the best shots — he was really hiding in the dense marsh, and not overly fond of the little attention he was receiving — I couldn’t resist including them; his magnificent ‘do makes me smile.
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