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Vaguely Totemic

The great blue heron plucked the feather out of the water, and shook loose the droplets. Then, she carefully dropped the feather back into the water.

After a few moments, she retrieved it with that stiletto beak, shook it dry, and then dropped it into the water once again.

Great blue heron fishing with a feather as bait.

Great blue heron shaking a seagull feather.

Transfixed, I watched her repeat this for more than ten minutes. It looked almost ritualistic – totemic or shamanic even – to see a feathered creature brandishing a feather from a different bird in such repetitive behavior.

And then it dawned on me.

Before she first picked up the feather, she had been fishing, staring intently into the water as though tracking a fish, from the half-submerged pine trunk.

And once she picked up the feather, she continued her fishing – using the feather as bait to attract her prey, the fish. How smart a bird and how alluring a lure she chose.

Crows are the master tool users of the bird world, but as this experience shows, herons are smart birds, too. The Internet is rife with accounts of animals using tools, and I’ve observed herons using tools for fishing on other occasions, but there’s something magical and special about her choice of a feather.

And after all, don’t human fishermen – especially fly casters – often fashion their lures with feathers? Why should a great blue heron choose any differently? Ingenious heron!


Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks once more to Ese for her Ese’s Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge – Allure.

Thanks also to Skinnywench for the Word a Week Challenge: Favorite. No secret, great blue herons are my favorites.

Thanks again to Stewart Moncton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.

(This took place July 25, 2011)

© 2013 Babsje. (

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