Heron fishing off a dock

Through the looking glass: Great Blue heron at work (click to enlarge)

The Great Blue heron relies on stealth and lightning quick reactions to catch its dinner – along with amazing eyesight.

Its eyesight is about three times more detailed than ours, and its binocular vision gives it very good depth perception. It also has a built in “zoom lens” – allowing the bird to switch instantaneously between telescopic and macro vision (probably as good or better than our fanciest modern camera lenses).

If we lowly humans were in the same situation as the bird in these photos, most of us would starve, at least without the aid of polarizing sunglasses and decent fishing gear. Staring into the water, we’d be thrown off by the glare, the surface motion and the dominance of our own reflection. Even if we were able to spot a fish, we’d have a hard time judging its exact location because the refracted light would distort our angle of view.

Heron lifting its head with two fish in its beack

Double success! (Click to enlarge)

The bird in these photos may have been managing to reduce the glare and distortion by extending its long neck and tilting its head to bring its bill almost straight down. If so, the trick worked, as we watched it catch two, three and sometimes even more fish with each rapid thrust of its elegant beak.

In an earlier post I wrote about BC’s coastal Great Blue herons and why they’re a species at risk here in the Strait of Georgia. Luckily, many have managed to adapt to our increasingly urban environment. For example, you can often find a Great Blue heron like the one in these photos, using a dock in a quiet corner of a marina as a handy viewing and fishing platform – affording humans a bird’s-eye view of this awesome fisherman in action.

Heron with two fish in beak

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer focused on nature and nautical on the BC coast

15 responses »

  1. […] data for a typical day.” Their nighttime activities are more difficult to follow. Herons have excellent eyesight capable of 360 degree vision with little movement and are able to hunt at night because of a high […]

  2. martin moffitt says:

    Yes very nice!..Thank you for your insight….I have always been amazed at how these very graceful creatures do what they do and the Science behind it. In my area (North shore of Long Island/Oyster bay/Bayville NY.) we are blessed to have an abundance of birds and waterfowl. Thank you

  3. Fred Bailey says:

    Great shots… as usual Laurie. Herons are so hard to photograph!

  4. ehpem says:

    Very nice photos! The colours are great too.

  5. Fred Bailey says:


    Herons are damned tricky to photograph well…but you’ve done it! Kudus, your shots are, as usual, brilliant.
    Best Regards,

  6. Thanks Laurie for this post and your lovely photos honouring these amazing birds. I was so sad and angry when I read about the 30 GBHs that died at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake tailings “pond” on August 30.

  7. Beautiful photos of an amazing bird.

  8. Sherry Galey says:

    Wonderful captures of a majestic bird!

Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.