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: email@example.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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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