Great Blue Baffling Behavior

A Great Blue Heron fluffs his feathers while preening

A place for everything and everything in its place.

That admonition came to mind as I watched a familiar bird engage in some very peculiar behavior.

Great Blue Herons are a common sight out my window. One fellow (or girl—they look the same) appears regularly on the edge of Eagle Island, about 1,000 feet from our home. He comes out to feed, stalking fish and amphibians as he tip-toes through shallow water in classic heron style. Step. Pause. Stare. Step. Pause. Stare. Step. Pause…Pounce!

But on that July day, something else drew the bird’s attention.

He was staring at a big branch. Had some tasty little tree creature caught his eye? He poked the branch, looked away, and poked again. I began recording after the third insistent poke, hoping to get his eventual prey capture on video.

The heron did indeed snare the object of his stare. Take a look at what he took from the tree, and especially what he did with it.

What do you suppose that bird was thinking?

Great Blue Herons build nests with sticks and small branches, but this was July, and to my knowledge, well out of nest-building season here in Michigan. Or, maybe he was preening. The Great Blues groom their bills by rubbing them against branches. But if this guy gave his bill a swipe or a wipe, I didn’t see it.

I think he was simply tidying up. A Great Blue Neat Freak, if you will.
If you have another theory, please share!

4 thoughts on “Great Blue Baffling Behavior”

  1. Definitely pruning the dead wood! Then again, I’ve been pruning our bushes here most of the day, so maybe I’m not being entirely objective. Still, this does look like a landscaper at work, don’t you think?

    1. Love blue herons. This fall about 8 white herons or egrets stopped in the bay. The blue herons did not like the invaders. They chased them every time the white visitors tried to feed from the shoreline. Needless to say, the white herons left after a couple of days.

      1. Carol B, we saw lots of white egrets during the summer, but I never saw any spats with the herons. Wouldn’t I love to get that on film!

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