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I pi**ed off a Great Blue Heron


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#1 rogerVA

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:28 PM

Long story short, I decided to intervene and interrupt brutal nature and momentarily defend a mallard's ducklings from a Great Blue Heron who was wanting to eat them (and very likely has by this point) at a local duck pond. The mom was fighting with everything she had and I was trying to push the heron away with a stick. He was angry but not scared.

He was only a couple feet from me for several minutes (catching fish and also eyeing the ducklings) and I decided I would probably get pecked by him if I had to get between them again and I wondered how much damage he could do to my bare arm. He'd probably draw blood but I can't imagine he'd do TOO much damage to me? Has anybody on earth (or preferably in this forum) ever been attacked by a Great Blue Heron or ever heard of it happening? That's quite a beak and he was incredibly fast and talented with it.

The rule is not to interrupt nature, but tell that to the good rehabilitation people and if you were in my shoes you might have done the same.

Here is who I was defending (the mom was defending, I was giving her a hand, best I could).
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#2 JimBob

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:33 PM

All I can say is I would have done the same thing. . . I like to let nature take its course but if it involves a bird getting eaten I prefer to get involved.

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#3 Limpkin

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:46 PM

Has anybody on earth (or preferably in this forum) ever been attacked by a Great Blue Heron or ever heard of it happening?


I've heard that Great Blues are a rehabber's nightmare... Protective goggles are a spectacular idea when dealing with a bill of that size! I think your face is the main thing to be careful about.

#4 cabirds

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:49 PM

Read in the other thread about a groundskeeper getting drowned by a Swan.

Who knows how hungry that Heron was and how delectable those dumplings ducklings looked to it? Ducks have a lot of offspring frequently because they are relatively low on the foodchain. There's always a purpose. Heron are a lot less common than ducks.

I understand it's tough. I am pretty strong, but don't have the stomach for things like that. I frequently have to turn around and walk away.
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#5 rogerVA

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:53 PM

Worse than watching the ducklings potentially die was watching their mother defend them with every ounce of her strength. She's who I fought for, but I could only do so much. Hopefully ducks get over it quicker than humans do. :)

#6 cabirds

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:01 AM

You probably don't want to hear this, but...

And if she had more than every ounce she did have, then her offspring would have survived. Or if she'd been more situationally aware, her offspring would have survived.

Eventually really tough really smart ducks will be naturally selected. Of course, by interfering, you might have saved the entire future of the human race from killer carnivorous ducks... ;)
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#7 rogerVA

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:03 AM

I think killer carnivorous ducks that feasted on men would be adorable.

#8 horseface

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:16 AM

I saw what I presume was an angry GBH once. That is not a bird I wanted to be involved with. This thing was pissed though, about what I don't know. It was sitting up in a tree making these weird noises but you could tell it was mad. It really was kind of scary/intimidating.

#9 rogerVA

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:21 AM

I LOVE the Great Blue Herons, we have a rookery here and I'm still really in awe when I see them (often) at local water spots. But they almost always fly away if I get within 10-20 feet of them. This one walked right up to me like he wanted to shake my hand before he stepped into the water directly beside me. The bravest (or sickest or hungriest?) heron I've seen yet. I bet he'll remember me, too!

#10 meghann

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:26 AM

Don't feel bad, I might have done the same thing. Hey, even on our Planet Earth DVDs, there is an extra clip showing that even though their policy is to never interfere, they did with this baby penguin that got stuck in a hole.

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#11 JimBob

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:38 AM

Don't feel bad, I might have done the same thing. Hey, even on our Planet Earth DVDs, there is an extra clip showing that even though their policy is to never interfere, they did with this baby penguin that got stuck in a hole.


I remember that!!!

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#12 cabirds

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:50 AM

The bravest (or sickest or hungriest?) heron I've seen yet. I bet he'll remember me, too!


Maybe 'cause he knows he's carrying around a 6" dagger that he can cram straight through your heart in the blink of an eye, with reflexes fast enough to skewer a darting fish that he feels tickle his toe, and can then escape at an easy long distance cruising speed exceeding even the 40yd sprint of the fastest man on earth? :P
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#13 ColoTomo

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:44 AM

Don't feel bad, I might have done the same thing. Hey, even on our Planet Earth DVDs, there is an extra clip showing that even though their policy is to never interfere, they did with this baby penguin that got stuck in a hole.

Interesting, that's kind of the approach I take. I would never go on a "crusade" "saving" wild animals in the backwoods of Alaska, nature is nature. However, it seems there's a difference when it's happening RIGHT in front of you. The way I figure it, if nature did NOT want me to intervene, it wouldn't be happening right in front of my face.

To address the point brought up by the OP, by trying to intervene, I don't think you did anything morally wrong. If it's truly the fate of these ducklings to become GBHeron food, it will happen tomorrow or the next day- you get the idea.

As far as my experience working in a bird rehab, we have had GB Herons. They tend to be fairly mellow around humans. I had not heard of any of the rehabbers being seriously hurt by one. On the other hand, they considered the cormorants to be much more dangerous. In my personal experience, I would agree the d.c. cormorants have sharp bills and are FEISTY !!

I don't think you took a great risk by engaging the Heron.

As for cabirds talking bout someone who was drown by a swan, that's pretty crazy! but I know swans are MUCH more aggressive than Great Blue Herons. And much heavier! The GB Heron, as large as it is, only weighs about 6-7 pounds !! A Mute Swan can weigh 20-30 pounds. But still, I weigh over 200+ and can turn a 30 pound bird into 20 pound Thanksgiving Dinner in about 8 seconds. And I'm sure Creeker could do it in 2
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#14 cabirds

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:05 AM

I agree that there's little to no risk there. Humans are apex predators. All predators look at the cost tradeoffs of calories: the risk of getting hurt versus having to go find your meal elsewhere. If the risk of getting hurt outweighs the likelihood that it can find another food source - it'll flee every time. It is rare that two predators will clash too strongly. Even rarer for an apex and a lower predator to "battle to the death". Two apex predators, a wolf and a bear for example, might go at it - but they'd have to both be half dead from starvation. Generally they'll feel each other out and the less hungry one will wander off.
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#15 creeker

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:08 AM

Speaking of ducklings being eaten, my wife will forever hate gulls because of a group of Western Gulls at Seaworld last year that were ganging up on the parent ducks (Mallards,) thus distracting them so they could eat the ducklings. I think they ate about ten ducklings in less than an hour.
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#16 Seattle

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:22 AM

We were watching a heron catch fish one day, it caught a fish that was a little bigger and it walked up on the shore fairly close to us. Then a red-winged black bird took notice of the fish. The heron raised it's crown and let out a squak that made me jump so I'm a little spooked by them. I would have tried to protect the babies also I don't think mother nature would mind this one time.

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#17 rogerVA

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:07 PM

I might be revisiting that pond tonight, after work. I'll let you know what happens or you'll read about me in the papers.

#18 ColoTomo

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:21 PM

...you'll read about me in the papers.


HEADLINE:

"GROWN MAN SLAPS HERON IN FACE; THEY BOTH LAUGH ABOUT IT LATER OVER BEERS"
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#19 grammarcat

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:34 PM

Ethics aside, one potential danger of interfering is that if the heron did cut you with its beak, there would be a huge potential of infection and possibly with some dangerous bacteria from the fish it eats.

Ethics not aside, I think you always have to consider weight your potential to cause harm in some direct or indirect way against your potential to do good. Sometimes, we can't override our instincts to protect and heal (or at least attempt to protect and heal). You even see that sort of behavior in non-human animals. I believe in letting nature work, but it's a lot harder when your heart is involved.

#20 rogerVA

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:28 AM

Update: Returned to the pond tonight and found neither the chicks nor the heron. I did however stumble upon this new batch of youngsters:

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