Green Heron Fishing

There are a number of species of herons, each having its own preferred prey and approach to fishing/feeding. This article shares a selection of photographs of a green heron fishing along with some observations about the fishing style of this species.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 121 mm, efov 327 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

You will typically find green herons along the shoreline of shallow ponds. They perch close to the water in low bushes or on low hanging tree branches over the water.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 121 mm, efov 327 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

When they spot a target fish they slowly move closer to the surface of the water and coil their bodies, preparing to strike. Like other herons, green herons have long necks but they usually only extend their necks when striking at some prey.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

When they catch a fish a green heron will very quickly draw its neck back in towards its body. Since green herons are fairly small birds they usually catch smaller fish, and will sometimes eat insects and other small prey.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560

Using a fast continuous auto-focus (AF-C) frame rate works well with green herons. They seldom have a lot of vertical body extension movements once they catch a fish, keeping their necks contracted instead, as you can see in the next three images that follow.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

When green herons are successful finding a productive fishing spot they tend to stay put for a while…even if they drop the odd fish (the bird did quickly retrieve it).

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

Green herons often swallow the small fish they catch very quickly. Sometimes the only way you’ll know that a fish has been swallowed is by witnessing a slight bulge in their throat disappear, as illustrated in the next two images.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 152 mm, efov 410 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560

Like many birds that are in a hunting mode, green herons become almost like statues as they wait in a rigid pose for their prey to draw near. This is an ideal time to zoom in tight to capture a detailed image of these wonderful, little birds.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241 mm, efov 651 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images in the article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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6 thoughts on “Green Heron Fishing”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Wonderful series of captures as always.
    One of the true wonders of nature photography is discovering
    something one didn’t know before, or confirming something one thought as true all along. I agree with what you wrote – herons can be very still while patiently waiting for prey to come by, then strikes like a lightning when it comes within striking distance; skittish when there are humans nearby, too; though in some places where there’s more or less familiarity with visitors, they can be a bit more tolerant of intrusion.

    Oggie

    1. Thanks for your comment Oggie – glad you enjoyed the images. The green herons tend to be quite skittish as you noted in your post. I’m not sure if the individuals I was photographing were young birds that haven’t yet learned to be more cautious around humans…but they were certainly acting as models for the photographers at that location.
      Tom

      1. Tom,

        I think the heron is in the picture is a juvenile, judging by coloration and anatomical proportion/s. Methinks human avoidance is a learned habit, especially if and when a heron encounters either hunters or boisterous humans.

        Oggie

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