Top Photo: Great blue heron searching the wetlands.

What is the great blue heron searching for when it slowly stalks through the belly deep water of our wetlands? The answer is, whatever it can catch? It eats whatever animal it can snag with its long pointed bill.

What’s this lanky bird looking for?

What does the heron catch? Well, currently in our wetland there’s not that many choices. The resident mosquito fish are quite small. There’re some aquatic insects that might suit the tall, long-legged, wading bird, and of course, bullfrogs and their tadpoles can’t be beat for their juiciness.

Not many bullfrogs this large in wetlands.

Likely though, if you watch our heron as it slowly and deliberately steps across the wetscape in front of you, you’ll see it mostly catches crawfish, red swamp crawfish. Most of the crawfish I witness the big blue heron catch are young, mid-sized, not quite into their mature coloration. But there are some lunkers out there.

Mature red swamp crawfish in aquarium in our Butterfly House’s Insectarium.

The heron seems to be pulling juvenile crawfish after juvenile crawfish out of the water with an occasional mosquito fish in between. The fact there are that many juveniles in the water indicates the adult population is fruitfully reproductive.

The bulk of the heron’s catch is juvenile red swamp crawfish.

And, as we all know, the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) is an invasive, habitat disrupting species. The crawfish is difficult or impossible to be rid of once introduced into an ecosystem. The only real hope is to try to control their numbers. A steady and constant  trapping of the arthropods seems to be at least one way to do that.

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