The Striated Heron has been observed four times over the past three weeks.
In recent weeks, I have been thrilled to repeatedly observe a rare South American visitor to Bonaire–the Striated Heron.
At first glance, this small heron might be confused with the common similar species, the Green Heron, but if one takes the time to look closely, there are obvious differences in both outward appearance and behavior.
Distinctive differences in outward appearance.
The white and rufous (reddish) stripes on the front of the neck are the biggest clue to your identifying a Striated Heron. Another difference is that the side of the neck is more gray than rufous. Like the Green Heron, the Striated Heron is normally solitary, found standing quietly around wetland habitats, such as Pekelmeer on the Southern Tour.
Behavioral differences between the Striated Heron and the Green Heron.
During the hours I spent with this special bird, I noticed several behavioral differences as well. First, I always find the Green Heron to be easily “spooked.” Simply stopping a vehicle might be enough for the Green Heron to fly away.
I was surprised to find the Striated Heron had no interest in me at all. Although I used the vehicle as a blind, I was able to move forward or backward to follow along its path, and the bird didn’t even seem to take notice.
Another behavior which I found to be extremely interesting was that of how the bird fished. Herons, of course, consume fish as a mainstay of their diet, and I have always seen a fish being manipulated so that it could be eaten head first. Otherwise, the fish’s dorsal fins could catch in the throat (see the image of a Green Heron consuming a fish head-first).
However, this Striated Heron has the unusual behavior of catching a fish, shaking it violently (reminding me of a dog with a favorite plush toy), and then swallowing it sideways. I could watch the fish on its travels down the entire elongated throat!
Historically recorded sightings of the Striated Heron.
According to eBird, this bird has been only observed a handful of times in the past 40 years, prior to my four sightings in the past month. However, it should be noted that there most likely have been additional occurrences. It’s possible that observers misidentified this bird as a Green Heron, or, if it was properly identified, the sighting might not have been officially recorded.
Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a certified bird guide, a PADI SCUBA Diving Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer.
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