A Great Blue Heron is Most Like a Cat When…

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.  

Thich Nhat Hanh,
Peace is Every Step

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron has caught a small pike after stalking it like a cat.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron about to strike.

Have you ever watched a cat stalking something? You might have noticed the cat “triangulating” on the prey if the prey is still. Because cats can’t see entirely motionless critters well (or perhaps at all), the cat will itself move in order to pinpoint the precise location where it needs to pounce.

And just before the cat pounces, you may notice that often the cat hunkers down, raising its butt while lowering its head, then shifting its weight on rear paws from side to side.

Great blue herons sometimes do that same maneuver before striking. As you can see in the animation I’ve created here, the heron’s head is very nearly motionless, while its neck and body sway from side to side as it fixes on the location of the pike it is stalking. The heron then lowered its head, raised its tail, and struck with lightning speed.

It was a lucky strike because, as the top photo here shows, the heron just barely caught the pike – the fish was easily a foot long, but the heron only was able to grasp the end of the pike’s mouth. The heron easily swallowed the pike in one gulp. Happy heron!

I can remember the first time I observed a heron stalking using that cat-like sequence like it was only yesterday. Watching through the binoculars, I saw the heron sway from side to side, raise its butt, lower its head and then strike below the surface, and I broke into a big smile when I realized it was hunting just like my cats. Who knew?!


Thanks again to Cee for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Happy.

Thanks once more to Ese for her Ese’s Weekly Shoot & Quote: Happiness prompt.

Thanks once more to Ailsa for her Weekly Travel Theme: Still prompt. How is it that the heron can hold its head so utterly still while the rest of its body sways from side to side? I find that fascinating.

Thanks also to Michelle for her Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge prompt.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Cats

Posted on December 23, 2013, in ardea herodias, Art, Cats, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, Ese's Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge, Great Blue Heron, Michelle's Weekly Pet Challenge, Nature Photography, Photo Essay, Photography, postaday, Weekly Travel Themes, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I shall take particular note next time I am watching a heron fishing. Thanks for the observation tip and Merry Christmas.

    • Hi Joyce – You’re welcome! Note that they don’t always do this, it depends on the way they are stalking their prey, I think more often if the prey is moving slowly and not entirely stationary. Merry Cheistmas to you, too! Thanks!

  2. I notice this quite a bit, Babs. I usually have my shutter pressed half-way, then I try to anticipate that movement and then rattle off a burst of several shots. Great fun when I am successful. Hope you’re having a great Christmas Day.

    • Thanks! Glad to hear you’ve observed that cat-like behavior, too, Bob. I love how they keep their heads perfectly still while their bodies sway – its almost like a dance. Hope you’re enjoying Christmas day, too.

  3. I’m looking quite differently to the heron, since we’re reading your posts. Thanks for the tip of the book. We found a version in Dutch and bought it immediately 🙂 Pawkiss 🙂

  1. Pingback: Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge; Round up and start of new week. | Hope* the happy hugger

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