Friday, December 15, 2006

The Grasshopper Chase

I've photographed many White-faced Herons over the years. More often than not, they were standing on the edge of, or in, water, salt or fresh, in flight, or roosting. But I don't recall having photographed them hunting insects, in this case grasshoppers. So here are the images, shot this morning.
We tend to think of herons as feeding on aquatic life of one sort or another, but in reality, they feed on a wide range of prey. Their ability to do so is probably the key to their success, as they are found Australia wide. This heron flew in with the youngster, (at right), in tow. By the look of the juvenile, it's only recently fledged, and from my observations over the years, will soon be left to its own devices.The adult heron used a similar hunting technique to Cattle Egrets, which given their close affinity, shouldn't come as a surprise. However, Cattle Egrets seem to catch insects more by stealth, or by following stock as they disturb potential prey. This heron appeared to walk through the grass disturbing prey as it went. Then having found the insects, grasshoppers, stalked and caught them with a quick stabbing action which seemed to work pretty much 100% of the time. It caught probably 20 or more in the short time I watched it. The juvenile took no part in this, and the adult made no attempt to feed it--perhaps it learnt from the experience.

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