Except when they are breeding, herons spend much of their time alone, feeding in damp places or wading in water.

Daily Life

Except when they are breeding, herons spend much of their time alone, feeding in damp places or wading in water. Sometimes large numbers of birds can be seen together at a particularly good feeding site. They are wary and suspicious birds, choosing quiet areas to feed.

A heron uses stealth and speed when hunting and will wait, poised and silent, at the water's edge, or stand up to its breast in water, hoping unwary prey will approach. When a victim comes within reach, the heron strikes quickly, stabbing down its long, sharp bill to grab the prey tightly. Fish are swallowed whole, head first so that the spines or fins do not get stuck in the bird's throat. Large fish may be brought to land and broken up into smaller pieces before being eaten. A heron is often difficult to spot when it is resting, head hunched between its shoulders, motionless and silent. If it is alarmed it will suddenly stretch its neck and take to the air, perhaps with a loud, harsh 'fraaank'.

The plumage of a heron may become dirty when it is catching wet and slippery prey. To help clean away the dirt and slime it has a patch of crumbly feathers called 'powder down' on its breast and rump; a specially shaped claw on the third toe is used to comb through the plumage.

Read More: Breeding

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