Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) photos by Larry Jordan (click for full sized images)

While visiting Arcata Marsh a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching a Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) as it skillfully caught several fish in an inlet or tidal channel of the marsh. I was truly amazed at the number of techniques this beautiful bird used to catch at least a dozen fish during my twenty minute observation.

Little did I know that the Snowy Egret not only has the broadest food capture behavioral repertoire of all North American herons, its effectiveness at catching prey may be enhanced owing to greater visual acuity than most other wading birds1. Have you ever noticed how intensely they seem to concentrate on the task at hand?

This bird had just chased another Snowy out of the channel as I arrived on the scene. Obviously he or she thought it was an excellent fishing spot.

Snowy Egrets consume a wide range of prey items and although fish seem to be their mainstay, they also eat earthworms, annelid worms, aquatic and terrestrial insects, crabs, shrimp, prawns, crayfish, other crustaceans, snails, frogs and toads, and snakes and lizards1.

You will see many of the techniques used by these marvelous fishers for catching prey in this video I took at the marsh. At about the 30 second mark, you will notice the most often used technique I have witnessed with the Snowy Egret, foot-stirring.

I also took some still images of this fascinating early morning fishing lesson. It’s believed that those bright yellow feet assist in these food capture techniques.

I also just enjoyed the beauty of this white bird against the blue water.

These were taken as the bird used a walk slowly stalking technique…

total focus usually produces good results.

I’m not much of a fisherman but I think anyone would have to be impressed with the Snowy Egret’s ability to run down fish in the open water. What do you think?

References: 1Birds of North America Online

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.