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.
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.