Creature Feature

Green Herons Go Fishing 

Many animal species, even birds, are known to use tools. Crows seem to be the best at solving problems using simple tools like sticks. There is however a wading bird, a heron, that has discovered how to fish with lures.  

A couple of years ago, while out canoeing, I was able to watch a green heron at work. In a quiet part of the South River, a fallen tree allowed the heron to walk back and forth along the water’s edge. As it slowly stalked minnows, the bird would pick up a stick and drop it into the water from a height of about six inches. As it hit the water, minnows would rush to the stick as if it contained food and then the heron would strike. The heron repeated the process many times and managed to use the lure successfully. 

The green heron is the smallest of the local herons, similarly sized to a crow and have just returned from their southern wintering grounds. They live around both salt and fresh water and are very common but shy.  

In the late spring, they will nest and have an average of four chicks from greenish eggs. The young will be pampered by their parents until the last part of the summer when they learn to fish on their own and prepare for fall migration. 

They are easy to see from kayaks and canoes. As they freeze in place while trying to hide you can quietly get close. I have not been out canoeing yet but I encourage readers to go out and enjoy a quiet paddle—just try not to startle herons on nests.