If you enjoy watching wildlife half as much as I do, then you will get a kick out of the Green Heron. It is one spunky bird. Small among herons, with a length of about 16-18 inches compared with the Great Blue Heron’s 38-54 inches, this little fellow can’t help being noticed. Whether motionless on a small branch overhanging water or noisily flying from place to place this colorful bird has crowd appeal.
Recently I joined an aggregation of photographers from the States and abroad who threw dignity to the wind and knelt or lay on the ground along the canal bordering the Anhinga Trail in Florida’s Everglades National Park just to capture images of a Green Heron. Mind you, the ground had been recently frequented by a ragged assortment of vultures–not the kind of place you would choose to plant yourself. Meet the object of our fascination.
The Green Heron intently gazed at the water below, waiting for a minnow to swim within reach. We were amazed to see it actually lick its chops several times. The bird’s skinny tongue is longer than its beak!
You can see how charged up our feathered angler was by his raised crest. Yet, he could wait no longer so he flew closer to the water landing on a small branch floating in the canal. The photographers hustled to find new positions.
Note the fierce stare, the crouch, the precision beak inching forward…
The S-shaped neck suddenly sprung forward and everyone’s DSLR let loose with a burst of shutter clicks that sounded every bit like a hail of bullets. Did this pint-sized bird we’d silently cheered for get his prey?
The Green Heron deftly turned the minnow head first and downed it before resuming its quest for another bite to eat. Satisfied, the photographers exchanged courtesies and wandered off in search of a new subject.
In researching for this post I found that the Green Heron is one of the few birds who finds some bait and drops it on top of the water in order to catch a fish. This behavior qualifies as ability to use a tool and indicates more intelligence than the average bird brain. Isn’t that amazing? God must have enjoyed creating this clever little bird.