Visit shallow seasonal and perennial bodies of water and you might catch a glimpse of this behavior, in the northern sub regions of Southern Africa. This is a bird called a black heron holding its wings in a canopy over its head almost like a umbrella. The bird takes part it in this activity to give it the ultimate edge in hunting prey. There are three theory’s of How a black herons does this so lets explore them.
1. The shade theory
The preferred prey of these birds are small fish, frogs and crustaceans. The canopy they make creates shade, witch is a warm welcome for prey considering shallow pools of water can heat up to the same temperatures as a bath during during the heat of the day. This action attracts fish and frogs to this refuge that they create. The fish and frogs are then grabbed with a dart like bill and eaten. They will also use their feet to agitate the bottom of the water in a effort to expose prey. The canopy they make only lasts a few seconds as they are small birds that are vulnerable to attack form predators and mainly fish eagles.
They have bright colored yellow and orange feet. This might attract fish in the same manor that a fisherman would use a lure to attract fish.
2. The glare theory.
This theory supposes that the canopy helps with glare from the water or so called reflection. Thus making it more easy to snatch up prey with their dart like bills. A problem with this idea is that in overcast conditions or in dusk and dawn, the reflection from water is minimal. This would otherwise not be as big of a problem. They feed mostly during morning and late afternoon. Thus would suppose that glare is not as plausible.
3. Plumage theory.
Black herons are covered in black plumage making their head necks and and bills almost invisible when covered by the shade created by the canopy they utilize. This gives them a great advantage over prey when their movements are disguised and gives this bird the ultimate edge.
Ultimately this bird is an amazing hunter, if it makes use of one of these strategies or all of them, this shows how God has perfectly designed all of his animals to be well adapted to the habit that it calls home!
Growing up on a cattle ranch, I developed a keen interest in the outdoors from a young age. After graduating, I started my career in professional guiding, and later on, I become involved in Anti-poaching and conservation in the greater Kruger area. The passion for camping and guiding eventually led us to establish Vumbua Tours and Safari. I’m driven to show people the natural wonders of Southern Africa and have them enjoy the great experience of camping.