The Green Heron, (Butorides virescens), that nests in our area has recently demonstrated very unusual behavior. Many people would be certain that this bird was incapable of observing, learning and actually developing a fishing technique all his own.
Last year we named him "Groucho", after Groucho Marx, simply because of the way he `slinks' around the pond looking for fish. You could almost picture the cigar in his mouth. He has watched with interest, over the past few years, our habit of feeding our fish with dry cat food. Shortly after we would start feeding, "Groucho" would appear. This year, however, he has learned that cat food can be used as a `tool' to catch fish the easy way. He picks up bits of food , surveys the area, and drops the food in front of him where he has seen fish activity. It works every time. He gets his fill by fishing with bait. We have seen him fly off with cat food in his bill and return with it several minutes later and start fishing again. It doesn't stop there! The other birds have become competition for the cat food washed on shore, so now he saves pieces for himself. We filmed this behavior mainly because we find it amazing and very entertaining. The film will prove to the disbelievers that this bird has enough brain to figure out that bait means a full stomach with less effort .
We're looking forward to seeing if he improves his fishing technique in the future.