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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.

Side Note 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.

More icky 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
my Seashore Life book.


Cormorants 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 cormorant beak.

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 is 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 heron
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 version. Enjoy.

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 tamed.

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 Seaweed.

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 your life.
And, have you tamed any wildlife this year?

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2019, 2023

Categories: Books, Characters, Recommendations, Wild Things,

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