The Great Blue Heron with unusually dark plumage that I saw below the Open Circle viewpoint at the end of May reappeared in the shallows near the southern end of the North Basin at low tide. It’s a very big individual. Its whole body is dark grey, except for dark red patches at the forward tips of the wings, and dark red drumsticks. The front of its neck has the most unusual pattern of irregular white and red streaks on a dark background. There aren’t two birds exactly like this one.
Watching these big herons hunt is like watching paint dry. They’re quite capable of freezing, absolutely motionless, for three solid minutes. A French mime couldn’t do it better. Then, suddenly, like lightning, they strike. Most often for nothing. I watched this bird for about twenty minutes, during which it pounced seven times and caught one little fish possibly two inches long.
The short video below — watch it on YouTube by clicking here — shows the contrast between the hunting style of the big Blue and a little Snowy Egret who happened to be passing. The big bird remains still while the little bird paces and stirs, and catches a little fish. But then the Snowy drops what looks like another bit of food. The big Blue scrambles forward, as if to grab it, but then collects itself and freezes again. Something about non-poaching ethics among herons/egrets? Or the realization that if the egret dropped something, it couldn’t possibly be food?
I’ve not seen any kind of hostilities between the big egrets or herons and the little ones. Not a peck.
If the video below doesn’t work, click on this.