This heron species uses tools to catch fish

September 14, 2015, 10:42 a.m.

There are many species of birds that excel at catching fish, but there are very few who are smart enough to use a tool to catch their prey. The green heron is one of the only species known to put tools to use to catch fish.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "The Green Heron is one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It creates fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, earthworms, twigs, feathers, and other objects, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish."

How exactly the herons figure out how to use baiting is actually still a bit of a mystery, as the behavior seems to appear in individuals independently. It is a very rare behavior and it isn't a behavior passed from bird to bird.

Dakota McCoy writes, "[P]erhaps all around the world, the Newtons and Einsteins of Green Herons are independently coming up with the idea of fishing using bait-- much as several of our human ancestors in different areas independently came up with the idea of using writing, and agriculture.How does a cognitively complex behavior like baiting, or writing, go from being the species-wide exception to being the species-wide rule?Let's keep paying attention to the cute and clever green heron. Maybe they'll give us some answers."

This young juvenile green heron is doing things the old-fashioned way by watching for fish and striking at just the right moment. But perhaps as he grows other, he'll figure out there's a smarter way to get the job done.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.