Sunday, February 7, 2016

February 6 2016 Reifel Sanctuary- Black-crowned Night Heron bait fishing - Heron Baiting. Heron fishing with bait

  I was watching the Night Herons at our local bird sanctuary, Reifel, when one flew down from the partially concealed roost.  Finally an opportunity to photograph one in the open.  These birds are mostly nocturnal and it was 2 o'clock in the afternoon.   What was prompting this deviation from "normal" behaviour?

Heron dropping down from its day roost.
It decided it needed to relieve an itch.  
Then it started hunting. 
I couldn't tell through the viewfinder what it grabbed but it spit it out.
Here is another catch which appears to be a stick. 
Yes, obviously a stick.  
Another stick. 
Here it nabs a catkin.
Yet another stick. 

It never caught anything to eat during the observation.
People saw me photographing the bird and before long a crowd had formed to watch this "unusual" behaviour.  We couldn't quite make out what it was catching.  Some suggestions were leeches, sticklebacks and Caddis Fly larvae.
Obviously a bird that can hunt at night must have excellent eyesight so why was it just grabbing bits of flotsam?  Perhaps we were observing a form of baiting.  Herons use behavior that classifies as tool use. Herons place bait, either natural or artificial, in the water to lure prey. The behavior is called baiting. They can use real food, such as bread,  as a lure or something that floats, such as stick. Fish are attracted to the lure, coming within striking range of the Heron.
 It continued this behaviour for about 15 minutes and then flew back up into the trees to continue its roost.  Credit to “The Terminology of Courtship, Nesting, Feeding, and Maintenance in Herons”, James A. Kushan, for the information on Heron Baiting.

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