Give This Bird a Piece of Bread and Watch it Go Fishing

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This video "has stunned scientists around the world" (really?) as this bird thinks critically, just like a human, to catch fish. Give this bird a piece of bread and watch it use it as fish bait [1:17]

Okay, a special question for all my mystery birds fans: can you name this species? What field marks led you to this identification? Oh, and have any of you ever seen something like this?

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Green heron - small, with extensive dark red on neck, dark back.
No, I've never heard of anything like this. It would be interesting to see if it spreads to other birds.

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 08 Feb 2009 #permalink

The green herons on our pond fish without bread but I have read that they do use 'tool' like a stick or in this case bread. They are wonderful hunters and just all around cool birds...

This is an interesting variation on the old fish being fed by bird trope.

I'll guess green-backed heron too, just because it's the heron species I've heard the most about in relation to bait-fishing.

There's a beautiful video here of a hooded crow in Tel Aviv, fishing with bread. You can read more about that on Oren Hasson's site.

I find this particularly impressive because one or a few crows almost certainly came up with the trick on their own; fishing at all isn't terribly common among crows AFAIK, and fishing with bait is almost unheard of.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 09 Feb 2009 #permalink

I watched a green heron on Sheldon Reservoir (NE of Houston, TX) use stunned insects as bait. It would pick them up and partially crush them, then place them in the water and stare unmovingly for minutes. I should say it appeared to use them as bait since it never caught anything. I watched, barely moving, for over an hour and left badly sunburned.

Green heron. Shape and size, greenish back with browner neck. White striations along neck. Plus the behavior's pretty classic.

I've seen a Green Heron in the mountains of North Carolina exhibit the same behavior that Ray mentioned above--using a stunned, or dead, insect as bait. It perched on a a log over a little eddy, dropped the insect into the eddy, and would retrieve the same insect as it drifted away, then place it back in the eddy. I was drifting in an inner tube, and the heron was quite close--just a few feet away. The whole behavior sequence was quite remarkable--the heron was very attuned to using the same "bait" and did not let it get away.

Evidently, that bird must have been intelligently designed :P

I've seen Green Herons "lure fishing" before but with pieces of plastic and the like, never with edible bait.

By Dominik Mosur (not verified) on 10 Feb 2009 #permalink

Our little green herons do this every year. We put bread out and they teach their young how to fish with it. We are very fortunate to have a nest about 30 feet from our front yard pond, which is about 30 feet from our front door.
What is even more amusing is watching the red shouldered hawks teach their young how to hunt for bull frogs. Usually the young ones end up drenched the first few times they try and "land" a frog.