Date: 5 July 2019. Wild Bird
Observations (night herons)
One of my favorite things to do is
observe nature. The native birds have been great fun to watch. Many
have me quite well trained. Over time I have seen the birds
interact both with each other and myself. Sometimes I am able to draw conclusions as to why they
display certain behaviors. Today I'll share some insights along with
pictures of my night herons, plus Ella the great blue heron.
This is Gus a night heron. It
took quite some time before he would eat out of my hand.
Other night herons realized how many hotdogs were available on
Seaweed. They too became quite tame.
regarding feeding these birds: You MUST hold the hotdog chip
horizontally. These birds stab or bite their food. It is imperative
the beak be able to open and clamp down on the wafer. Otherwise you
will end up a bloody mess.
information: The beaks on night herons have
razor like barbs heading backwards along both the top and bottom
edges. That beak will tear your skin. This makes catching fish
easier in that the fish cannot escape.
Be wary. These are wild critters.
If you chose to feed by hand first start by allowing them to poke
into the feeding dish. Initially use gloves until they understand
how to bite just the hotdog wafer.
Some night herons remain "grabby" and will slice your
fingers regardless of how careful you may be.
Definitely do not feed so much that
the birds rely upon handouts. I did increase my supply of hotdogs to the
birds during the red tide episode. Even still, the birds did lose
weight over that terrible period. Some disappeared entirely. Others
(two anhingas) died. It was a sad time.
Recently while on a short
cruise I spotted a couple of anhingas on a green marker.
Cormorants and Anhingas ↑
Seashore Life book.
and anhingas look very similar. Basically, anhingas beaks are
more pointed (shaped like a capital "A") while cormorants have a
rounded end of their beak. There is a bump on the end of a
Both anhingas and cormorants swallow fish whole. When the red
tide infected local waters, the anhingas ate those sick fish.
The anhingas subsequently died.
Details on night herons, from my
favorite bird book
Birds of North America:
My favorite night heron was named Buddy. Gosh, I loved that bird. He
was the first tamed and the friendliest.
I did worry that Buddy would
become too confident interacting with other people. Fortunately he
was cautious when dealing with folks in the neighborhood. Trust was
earned rather than given. The other night herons were initially wary
though eventually several of the wild birds recognized me. Indeed, a
few would fly along beside me as I walked out the dock.
Call me Cinderella! This is my
Buddy hanging out right behind the chair I was sitting in:
One day I returned
to Seaweed and spotted Ella the great blue heron atop the
neighboring boat. Her wings were spread out and she looked much
larger than normal. I could not understand why she was like that.
Here's a picture of the same
stance. Please note that this photo was taken on a different day.
Ella was glaring
at the side door of Seaweed. I could not understand why she would do
that. Then I went aboard my boat.
Yes, that is Buddy the night heron standing on my
bunk. He was frightened too...
What I believe happened is
that Ella came up to Buddy as he was sitting on my side deck. Buddy
would peek into my cabin to see if I was inside. I fed him every
time, if only a few hotdog wafers. Then Ella came too. She startled
Buddy so he retreated into my boat.
Buddy could not fly out the back
because the screen was up over the cockpit door. Ella the great blue
was looking large by spreading out her wings just outside the
pilothouse door. She intimidated my poor Buddy.
With Ella spread
out like that, Buddy was stuck inside my boat. The night heron
(Buddy) flew down onto my bunk looking for another way out. That was
unsuccessful. I could not shoo Buddy out with Ella standing there
acting aggressive. Thus I called on one of my patient neighbors.
The gent came. He distracted Ella. Meanwhile I opened the
screen at the back door and helped Buddy escape.
Life is never dull
aboard Seaweed. I am
truly fortunate to have my wonderful home.
Even though the previous time I saw Ella spread out I
believe she was threatening Buddy, I saw the same stance again
recently. This time I took pictures. She was standing near my solar
panels with her wings spread out.
During the summertime it is very
hot and humid here. Ella is standing with her wings opened.
I believe she is cooling herself. Her beak is
slightly ajar too.
Details on the great blue heron
from my bird book,
Birds of North America:
Side Note for new
readers: Almost all photos on my website can
be enlarged. Simply click (or double click) for the full sized
I have observed the same opened
beaks in both Nevermore and Ready, pictured below.
When I look carefully their throat area was
vibrating. I suspect this is a means of cooling themselves.
I only see the
birds standing with their beaks open or ajar when it is oppressively
hot. I believe this action helps them stay cool, much like dogs
panting with their tongues out.
As for the names of the two black birds pictured
previously and to the right, I chose Nevermore because of the
poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Ready is named because when I ask if
he is ready, he flies closer for me to toss a hotdog wafer.
These two almost always
catch the hotdog in the air. They are quick!
I have repeatedly examined
my bird book to ascertain which specific black birds I have
I still am not sure if they are crows or ravens. They are
vocal (caw, caw) but look the same to me.
Well, this long piece started out
as a brief vignette with three pictures of my Ella. It's grown, so
much so that I considered breaking the piece into two articles.
I'm just so proud
of my birds. They bring a great deal of joy to my life.
Gus and his gal have begun to bring
me twigs. It is nest-building season.
The duo have constructed their own nest in the mangroves behind
I believe these night herons like me. I do know this
duo trusts me. They are friendly and fun to watch.
I do thank you for reading to
the end. I hope you like my critters too. Stay cool!
Happy boating to you and yours.
I'd love to hear about any critters who bring joy into
And, have you tamed any wildlife this year?
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Tips for Cooling the Boat
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