Heron likes to stay hidden

A Nankeen Night Heron on the lookout for fish.

A few years ago, I wrote a short piece about a bird called the Nankeen Night Heron.

Just recently an acquaintance described a bird that he had seen and wondered what it was. It was the Night Heron. For other readers who may not know this bird either, here is the story about it.

The Nankeen Night Heron is a bird that likes to stay hidden in the foliage during the day. One morning I was walking along the water’s edge at the Botanical Gardens, and on a small island not far across the water, I counted four of these birds roosting quietly in a clump of trees. One of them (pictured) dropped down to a large rock which really aroused my interest so I sat down on the grass opposite the birds.

This heron had his eyes fixed on the water as it moved slowly forward to the edge, then entered the water. It waded further in and virtually froze, still watching the surface with a steady gaze. It held this position for what seemed a long time then suddenly, it struck the water with a lightning thrust. Up came its head with a fish in its beak.

The fish wriggled and squirmed but the heron held it in a vice-like grip until its movements seemed to ease off. After this, the heron began to juggle the fish, twisting and turning it to get it in position for swallowing.

The catching seemed to have been easy. Arranging it so that it could be swallowed was far more difficult. Finally the heron was able to let the fish slip down its throat and the whole show was over. The bird moved back to the land then flew up into the tree again to join the others.