I thought I’d go down to the Wetlands early (relatively early) to see if the night heron that showed up yesterday was still around. At first I thought that the bird had moved on, until I checked the secondary Wetlands Overlook (near the Lemurs). It had rained 3-5 inches the day before and there weren’t many exposed areas in the swamp for a night heron to hunt from, but the bird had found one on the back side of the Wetlands.
When night herons hunt they typically move very, very slowly so as not to scare the prey, which is usually crabs, crayfish, and other small invertebrates. As the bird moves close enough to the prey to strike, it does so with a quick lunge catching the prey in its open bill. I’ve watched these stealthy herons hunt for fiddler crabs on a mud flat for hours, slowly stalking the little crabs and then swallowing them down with little hesitation.
Our visiting yellow-crowned is not quite in full adult plumage, which can take two years to achieve.
Perhaps this heron will stay a while longer, although I’m doubtful. We have no crabs in our Wetlands. But, we do have a fairly healthy population of crayfish, and certainly many frogs so hopefully I’ll be wrong about how long the heron is with us. We’ll see.
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!