Published On: Tue, Oct 21st, 2014

BACKYARD BIRDING IN MERIDA, YUCATAN AND BEYOND-LIP-SMACKING GOOD: GREEN HERON

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Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired”, zoologist, wildlife photographer, and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 53 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her column, published on the 7th and 21st of each month features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and beyond. Contact: all4birdies@gmail.com  All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo

Green Heron, Butorides virescens, Garcita Verde (Spanish), Chuja (Mayan)

I’m fascinated with bird behavior. I wrote a previous column about the **Green Heron and how it is one of the few bird species to use bait to lure fish within striking distance. Although the Green Heron looks short-necked, that neck acts as if it’s part giraffe as the neck rises up like an elevator. That extension enables the heron to stab its prey.

Green Heron with neck down

Green Heron with neck down

The Green Heron extends its neck up like an elevator

The Green Heron extends its neck up like an elevator

Now I’ve seen another behavior of the Green Heron I didn’t know existed.

 

Last month I photographed two Green Herons at a Merida park. I always smile when I see a wading bird climb a tree or perch on a limb when it isn’t nesting. It seems odd, but I learned when a chick falls out of its nest into water, it could swim to land and then climb back up.

 

Needless to say the juveniles and adults can climb too. Wonder if this one was only “Shaking”, not stirred.”

A wading bird seems odd to me perched in a tree

A wading bird seems odd to me perched in a tree

Green Heron shaking, not stirred

Green Heron shaking, not stirred

At one shady spot, I set up the tripod and waited for a wading bird to appear. Suddenly a juvenile Green Heron chased a second one in my direction where it landed on a rock 10 feet in front of me. When I looked through my camera’s viewfinder, the bird’s bill opened and closed several times. EUREKA! On closer observation, that swizzle stick-like tongue came out at the base of the bill and slid along the edge of the lower bill.

Green Heron tongue reminds me of a swizzle stick

Green Heron tongue reminds me of a swizzle stick

After it closed its mouth, the bill opened again to reveal the tongue slip-sliding away on the other side of the lower bill back towards the base. It didn’t stop anywhere on the bill and almost reached the tip before the bill snapped shut. It reminded me of those moving walkways in airports, smooth and at a constant speed.

This two-three second process continued several times. I surmised the tongue aided in cleaning its bill.

Green Heron cleans left side of lower bill

Green Heron cleans left side of lower bill

Tongue of Green Heron cleans right side of lower bill

Tongue of Green Heron cleans right side of lower bill

When I looked through other images I had taken earlier that day, two more showed the behavior that I hadn’t even noticed as I concentrated on habitat shots instead.

Another Green Heron swipes off slippery slime of prey

Another Green Heron swipes off slippery slime of prey

I’ve found little information about this behavior. One tweet mentioned how bill cleaning with the tongue was a common behavior in Green Herons and Great Blue Herons. Evidently that action cleans off fish slime or other juicy prey gunk.

Must be lip-smacking good!

Hey, I’m not giving you lip service here: go outdoors and treat yourself to nature this week.

**http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2013/07/backyard-birding-in-merida-and-beyond-fish-or-cut-bait-the-green-heron/

 

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  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! It’s as if they’re about to fly off of my screen! Muchas, muchas gracias!
    Friend of Jane

  2. Thank you, Jane. I’m happy you enjoy the images. Hope you also enjoy the birds in Vermont, and beyond.

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