Heron Surfing Kruger Style!

Jun 2 2015

Southern Africa is home to approximately 13 different species of herons, and this particular one seen in the clip is a grey heron. It is easily identifiable by its size, as well as the head and neck which are mostly white. An interesting bird to say the least, we therefore chat to Johan van Zyl, expert guide and wildlife photographer about their very dynamics…

TB: Where are they most commonly found and are they generally associated with water?
JvZ: Grey herons are common residents and found much across the whole of South Africa.  And yes they are definitely associated with water spotted around pans, waterholes, and slow flowing rivers etc.

TB: What constitutes their diet?
JvZ: Herons have dagger-like bills which they use for hunting mainly aquatic animals i.e. fish, and frogs etc.

TB: Please can you describe their hunting technique to us?
JvZ: Hunting techniques differ from species to species.  The Black heron makes use of canopy feeding – it uses its wings as an umbrella to create shade which then attracts the fish.  Grey herons stand in shallow water and spear the fish with their long, sharp bills.  There are also records of herons fishing using insects in slow moving rivers.  They will catch a grasshopper for example and place it in the river, letting the 'bait' slowly float down.  It will then pick up the 'bait' and continue the process until a fish grabs the bait, which is when the heron uses the spear like bill to stab the fish.

TB: Is it true that these birds are monogamous? And if so can you please describe their courting process?
JvZ: Overall the herons are monogamous and colonial.  Males attract females by building a nest.  When a female arrives generally there are visual cues, which can include adopting postures or ritual displays and vocal cues, including deep booming sounds.  Some ornithologists have reported observing female herons attaching themselves to impotent mates, but thereafter seeking sexual gratification somewhere else.

Listen out for their loud croaking 'fraaank', and next time you spot one wading around water, make sure you stop and take notice of this bird’s interesting hunting technique.

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