12 April 2007

Why the herons are tame in Florida

I have written about the unusually tame wild birds of Florida that I had observed in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island and around Tampa area.

Last week I was back near Tampa where I observed and photographed more Great Blue Herons that would let me come within about 5 meters of them. And this time I think I figured out one reason why these birds are so used to being near humans. On one beach I witnessed a woman throwing what appeared to be large shrimp to one heron, which the bird eagerly accepted.

I returned to the same beach several times during the week, not for the birds but to study and photograph the abundant snails, and on every occasion there was at least one heron trailing me, watching my every move in anticipation of a tasty morsel that I didn't offer.


In Maryland until a few years ago people often fed the ever abundant Canada Geese (I did it too). The geese were so used to this that they would swim near the shore whenever they spotted people approaching a pond. Then, signs warning visitors not to feed the geese started popping up here and there and the feeding practice seems to have ebbed since then. Not surprisingly, the geese have become wilder and now they tend to move away when approached.

Tame birds are easier to photograph, but wild birds are more natural (and more of a challenge to photograph). I hope Floridans will soon stop feeding their wild birds directly*.

*Backyard feeders are fine, because in that case the birds don't associate food with people.

1 comment:

burning silo said...

Interesting about herons becoming so bold. I wonder if that type of behaviour would eventually lead to aggressive begging after awhile. While taking a lunch break down at Crysler Park beside the St. Lawrence River, we've been accosted by Canada Geese that are very bold - they come forward with head held low and neck stretched out, hissing in a menacing way as they approach the picnic table. Sometimes, there get to be so many that it's very disconcerting. We used to keep Embden geese at one time, so I'm not particularly nervous of large birds, but the sight of 20 or 30 hissing geese coming up to our picnic table usually causes us to cut short our lunch.