NycticoraxIt turns out this bird is not a Kingfisher. It’s a Nycticorax which, unbelievably, is an even cooler name. It means ‘night heron’ in greek if Wikipedia is to be believed. The interesting thing about these birds is their intelligence. I don’t know if this is an observed quality of the Nycticorax in general but the ones around here display fascinating behavior.

At the pond in the park when one throws bread crumbs into the water there is a kind of convergence of animal life. All of it is a response to a perceived opportunity to gain additional nourishment. The pigeons flock to the ground hoping for some discarded crumbs, the ducks quack and scramble from across the pond to be the first to reach the soggy prize, floating on the water. All too often they are too late, because the fish, small and hidden in the dark water, are already there and they suck it down with lipless mouths. This is where the Nycticorax comes in. These ones know what is going on. When they see the proverbial provider tossing forth nourishment they fly close and stand just a few feet away. Then they lean over the water and watch. When the fish come up to partake, they dive into the water straight as an arrow and with no splash. Returning an instant later with a silvery fish held tightly in the beak, they pop up on shore, tip back and swallow.

Humans provide the bait for this master fisher.


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