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Panamoka_Bassin

Great Blue Herons

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Anyone know how big a fish these things eat?  Could they, say, eat a 12-15" bass?  I have noticed a bunch hanging around my pond lately and have also noticed a sever drop off in production from the pond.  Is this coincidence or should I find a way to get rid of them?

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Ive seen litterally thousands of Herons in my life (grew up on the water) but rarely ever saw one eat anything over 4-5 inches. I believe they mostly eat minnows and small forage fish.

loons, commerants, sea turkeys (whatever your name of choice) on the other hand are a dreadful creatures, sent straight from hell to destroy your waters...

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Blue Herons eat stocker trout on the White River in Arkansas. The locals claim there are 10,000 birds on the river that eat at least one trout per day or 365,000 per year. Not coincidently, this is a number very close to what the DNR says is "unaccounted mortality". Stockers vary in size, but I would guess they weigh around half a pound.

The commorants are a much bigger problem, particularly from a commercial stand point. Throughout the Mid South, catfish farming has become a big business. Commorants are public enemy #1. I have never actually seen them successfully hunting game fish on a lake, but they aggressively attack schools of baitfish. (BTW, many people think they are a type of goose, but they are actually part of the pelican family).

Both species are federally protected.

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...or should I find a way to get rid of them?

Both species are federally protected.

Guess that answers your question, Panamoka_Bassin. I've noticed some of these birds around where I fish, and they usually catch some fish when I'm watching them.

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I love sharing my water with great blue herons. They show me where the fish are, and to me they're handsome birds.

Yes, GBHs mostly eat small bait fish, but I have seen a few impale fish in the size range you mention. Like most wild animals, they are opportunists, and innately "calculate" the energy spent getting a meal vs. the energy they'll get out of it. (That's why coyotes will sprint after a deer, but if the deer doesn't trip or die of heart attack in front of them  ;), they'll back off after a few yards.) Similarly, if a large fish is available a great blue heron will make a stab at it and once in a great while they get lucky. The herons I've observed doing this seem to be completely suprised by their success, and they take a really really long time trying to figure out how the get that big heavy fish off their bills and into their stomachs!

As RW noted, cormorants are another story altogether. Supposedly the Chinese have used them as fishing aids. They a tie noose around their necks so they can't swallow and release them on a tether. The fish dives, gets fish, and the fishermen dig them out of the birds' gular sacs (a smaller version of the pouch you see on pelicans). It's supposed to be pretty productive, though I suspect it's still done only in very rural parts of China, if at all.

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Guest the_muddy_man

OH OH ! Blue Herons........Federally Protected........and they taste sooo good!

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It's always best to look at the Big Picture, and not get emotionally involved (unless you're commercially involved).

The more blue herons, egrets, kingfishers, cormorants and ospreys that you see, the "healthier" the ecosystem.

If you're not seeing any wading birds or piscivorous birds you can rest assured that you're dealing with a sick body of water.

I used to have a Purple Marten House when I lived in Edgewater, Florida, and one of my neighbors gave me a big pat on the back.

He informed me that Purple Martens eat up ALL the mosquitoes. I thought to myself, yah right, so what are they eating?

Roger

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Guest avid

I happen to think the Great Blue Heron is a magnificent animal.  I have a few in residence at my home lake and often stop fishing just to watch them.

Your not going to want to hear to hear this but a full grown Great Blue can down a keeper bass with no effort at all.

I have actually made "friends" with one.  He sees me fishing and while he is doing his thing and I am doing mine, we occassionally glance over to see who's catching fish. (just like REAL people)

Anyway, if he sees I have one hooked, he will immediately fly over and stand in the reeds about 10 feet away.  Upon landing the fish he'll squack at me because he wants to be fed (I am guilty of doing that on occasion).   I won't toss him anyting big.  #1 because all big bass  go back to get bigger, and #2 I don't want to choke him.

the funniest day I had with him was when I caught a 13" bass. He squawked, so I tossed the bass way up in air.  He moved a few feet and caught it sideways in his beak.  Then HE tossed it up in the air.  It came down head first, and he swallowed it as easy as moms apple pie.

I wonder if a tournament fisherman would ever take the time to have an experience like this?  Or if they would even appreciate the precious gift that moments like this truly represent.

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Cool story, Avid.  I love watching the great blue birds but it never occurred to me to try to feed them.  :)

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Cool story, Avid. I love watching the great blue birds but it never occurred to me to try to feed them. :)

You might check the laws before trying that... Avid fishes private water.  It may not be legal to feed undersized gamefish as bird food, at least on public waters.

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Muddy, Muddy, Muddy.....  ;D  ;D  ;D

Here's to you!

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Guest avid

As is often the case, you can count on Russ to be prepared with photo's or video's of anything from his gorgeous bass fishing girlfriends, to the challenge of landing a lunker largemouth, a charity event for kids,  all the way to capturing the aesthetic beauty of flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

Well done  

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I think that they are really cool creatures, but if you want to keep them away from your pond without hurting them, you might try a fox or coyote decoy to act as a "scarecrow" move it around occasionally so they don't get to accustomed to it in one spot. it might work.

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Guest avid

my concern is more about the cormorants.  Like rolo says a balance of birds and wildlife usually means the ecosytem is healthy.   I know except for an over abundance of weeds my home water is good.  

Thee are many varied and beautiful species of birds.  Some like the cormorant can grow to be really hard on a fish population, but the balance is very good right now.  I think our bobcats, racoons, and gators help keep things in check.

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Guest the_muddy_man

Be careful feeding animals i got arrested for feeding the next door neighbor's cat I got caught feedin it to the pitbull

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Hey, thanks for the info, guys, you really do come through...one of the many reasons I love coming to this site every day.

I liked the idea of using a decoy best, but I unfortunately don't have a coyote or fox decoy.  I do have a couple Owl decoys (they're supposed to keep seagull from pooping on boats), what are the chances that they'll keep 'em away?

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I still don't understand why you want to get rid of them. Their presence at the pond is a sign of health, of fish abundance, not imbalance. It's highly unlikely they'd be responsible for a severe drop off in fish, and if there is one there, the birds would simply move to another pond with more fish in it. The dropoff is likely caused by other factors--overfishing, chemicals in the water, a die off in aquatic plants, etc.

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Guest avid
I still don't understand why you want to get rid of them. Their presence at the pond is a sign of health, of fish abundance, not imbalance. It's highly unlikely they'd be responsible for a severe drop off in fish, and if there is one there, the birds would simply move to another pond with more fish in it. The dropoff is likely caused by other factors--overfishing, chemicals in the water, a die off in aquatic plants, etc.

You make an excellent point here Norman.  I think it is because people can SEE a Heron eating fish, so they become obvious targets.

The insidious but less obvious villians such as changes to the ecosystem due to human intervetion like unabated construction, water diversion, habitat encroachment,  highway and fertilizer runoff etc etc. are more often the real culprits.

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Guest avid
Be careful feeding animals i got arrested for feeding the next door neighbor's cat I got caught feedin it to the pitbull

Muddy, are you ever going to behave yourself?????????

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Just for the record...

Many, many times I have fed spotted sea trout up to 14 inches in length to Great Blue Herons. These were fish below the legal size limit and usually were injured to a point where their survival was doubtful if released.

For years I had a regular night-fishing "partner", a Heron I named "Beaky". When I walked, late one night, onto the long, lighted, private pier at Rockport TX, Beaky appeared and soon was waiting for his first free meal.

When we first met, Beaky was sort of standoffish, never getting closer than, say, twenty feet. I would toss a fish his way and he'd cautiously approach, one eye on the fish, the other on me. As the years rolled by, though, and he realized I was not a threat but, rather, a friend, he overcame his fears and would stand right beside me, offering fishing tips ;) and making small talk....GRAAAAAAAAK!

He'd never buddy-up with other anglers so long as I was on the pier and some other regulars said they never saw him do so when I was absent.

Finally, we came to so trust each other that I could safely offer him his snacks from my fingertips and he was willing to accept them. Others on the pier would stare in wonder as Beaky and I demonstrated the mutual trust we shared.

One night he ate, I swear, seven 12-14" sea trout in a span of perhaps fifteen minutes. Then, barely able to get airborne in the uncharacteristically calm night air, he "Graaaaaak"-ed his thanks and lumbered off the runway.

As I was coming back from breakfast late that same AM, I spotted The Beakster just loitering in the shallows. He seemed to be staring off into space, somewhat glassy-eyed, rather than looking for targets. I made my way down the shore until I was within chatting distance and bade him a good morning. Beaky looked right at me and asked, via telepathy,..."Got any TUMS?"

I haven't fished there since Spring '03. I hope Beaky found a new and worthy friend.

Now, a cautionary tale, all to terribly true...

I was slow and deliberate in making friends with Beaky. And... I NEVER leaned over him AND I wore glasses all the time when near him. Here's why; A GBH will, when threatened, either fight of flee. His/her favorite tactic is to blind his opponent with stabs into the eyes with that long and lethal beak.

Some years ago, while I was fishing on a different Rockport area pier, a heron arrived and was standing around with a hopeful expression. Occasionally someone would toss him a fish and then back away as he warily approached his meal.

A young couple came onto the pier, a girl-child, if I recall correctly, about four years old in tow. The father soon caught an undersized trout and tossed it toward the huge bird. Just as the feathered one arrived at his snack the child ran forward, hoping to pet the pretty blue critter.  The heron, startled by the seeming attack, took careful aim and drove his beak...into her right eye.  Though EMS was there on the double, and the MDs did what they could, the little one's eye was destroyed.

The above is true, I was there. I earnestly wish I had not been there.

GBHs are not to be toyed with. Let THEM decide when and if to buddy-up. Never make a sudden or threatening move, wear eye protection and NEVER lean over one.

F.Rod

Witness to much good and too much sorrow.

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Excellent post, FlyRod. Heartbreaking about that little girl.

As her story shows, feeding a wild animal is always perilous and often has unintended consequences. (The classic story comes from the 1960s and involves the bears of Yellowstone. For decades they were allowed to feed in the dumps there; in fact, watching bears at a dump in the evening was one of the touristy things to do. Then they closed the dumps and suddenly the area had a big-time bear problem on its hands.)

Your experience with Beaky was a happy one, fortunately, because you were the only one feeding the bird. Animals that become dependent on humans, though, can get tame enough that when the humans go away they have trouble feeding themselves. Or because they have learned to associate humans with food, they can get overly aggressive toward humans.

The moral of the story: as pleasurable as it may be to offer handouts, let nature take its course and try not to feed the wildlife.

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