Green Herons are still pretty common birds even though their numbers are in decline. I have really enjoyed catching glimpses of the juveniles growing strong and healthy at the pond near my house this year.
This one hangs out with a small group of grackles. The other morning I veered off from the main path to sit under the shade cast by a huge pecan tree. The grackles were perched in their usual places overhead. What was different was the soft gentle chattering that fell from the leaves sounding quite unlike the brash shouts and songs they usually make. Every so often I could hear a new voice pipe up in response from the water’s edge. This conversation lasted about 10 minutes. Neither the grackles or the heron pictured above seemed anxious with each other or my intrusion. When I did get too close he flew up into the tree to hide with his friends.
Local feral parakeets also associate with grackles. I am not sure what the grackles get out of the deal but there is a clear advantage for the outsiders. Grackles are gregarious and quite vocal (read: never shut up). When they forage the group fans out resulting in many eyes watching many places.
The grackles probably make a great early warning system alerting the heron to danger approaching not only from the sky but also from the pathway that leads to the water’s edge. Kind of like having his own personal security force …
Both grackles and green herons are extremely intelligent. I learned today that green herons even use tools. They carefully balance small objects like feathers or bread crumbs to float on the surface of the water. Then they wait ever so patiently for curious fish to swim up to investigate. I guess I can stop worrying about the adult bird I see associating with the pigeons and ducks. He might not actually be eating the bread crumbs thrown by well meaning people — he may have simply discovered a handy fishing lure source! I shouldn’t have doubted his competence.