The Herons are Coming

Published on November 27, 2008


We get dozens of phone calls each Fall, right around the end of September into early October to inquire about an unusually large bird hanging around their pond. After I break the news, you can only imagine the horror on the face of the person that has no idea the bird is actually there to hunt their fish!

Let me just give everyone a friendly warning right here and now. If you have not been visited by a Blue Heron, YET, consider yourself lucky. However, make no mistake about it, these birds are everywhere and when they are on the move, migrating, they just might pit stop at your pond for a little snack, your favorite Koi or fish!

Do yourself and your fish a favor and take a couple of precautions to detour these pesky predators. Do a tune-up on your Scarecrow motion sensor device and if you don’t have one, install one ASAP. Other methods to deter the feathered fish-eating predator include:

• Putting a net over the pond

• Stringing piano wire above the pond

• Installing a patio-style cover

• Installing fish tunnels or caves for the fish in which to hide

• Putting a dog on patrol next to the pond 24 hours a day

• By designing bigger, deeper ponds

• And I have even heard contrary to my belief that the alligator decoy works wonders, even here in California!

It has been said that these birds do not tolerate each other, are extremely territorial and will not allow another Heron in close proximity. However, do not fall for; “A statue of a blue heron will keep the bird away,” because I have reports of herons being romantically attracted to these heron statues. Seriously no joke, this is a TRUE STORY!

A Revealing Personal Experience in more ways than one!

Now, let me share with you one of my scariest personal pond keeper moments! Several years ago, my dogs awakened me just before dawn outside barking franticly. Instinct overtook me; I just knew I had to get to my pond and FAST!

I ran outside, in my skivvies no doubt, around the bend, approached my pond and there standing in the top shelf of my pond was this humongous, Great Blue Heron! My heart immediately sank. I waved my arms, yelling at the top of my lungs. I noticed that this “Spawn of Satan” himself had a wingspan of over six feet as he lifted off of the ground.

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 Freaked by this emotional visual, I spun around just in time to watch what I can only assume was The Spawn of Satan’s mate lift off from a low branch in my Deadora tree overhanging my pond. To add intensity to the already intense moment, the bird had to swoop in a downward motion, towards me, to navigate below the limbs of the tree as a part of its getaway plan! This heron solidified my doubt of the myth, that a statue of a heron will protect your fish from predation.

As you can only imagine, I dropped to my stomach in the cold wet dirt, Remember, in my skivvies! Oh you think that was funny do you? Just think what the early bird joggers thought! Yes, this pond is in my front yard.

Secrets to the Predators Success!

It may seem like these nasty waterfowl predators, for example, egrets, night herons and blue herons, have not bothered your fish all summer, but let me remind you that your water temperatures and fish metabolisms are at their peaks in the heat of summer!

You will find that as your water temperature cools in the fall, so will the metabolism of your fish, equaling slower reflex movements from your fish. This means your fish become much EASIER PREY for the Tyrannosaurus rex of the pond world!

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I personally have had the most success keeping these pesky birds away with the use of a motion sensor sprinkler device called a Scarecrow. Be sure you have a working Scarecrow motion sensor for every 100 square feet of surface area in your water feature to deter predators from hunting your scaled pets that deliver so much tranquility to you year round.

Understand that by design the Blue Heron hunts fish that are camouflaged extremely well in natural ponds, lakes, rivers and streams with sometimes little to no visibility in the water! So you see why a small pond, with brightly colored fish, in crystal clear, two-foot deep water is like a dream meal for these birds.

You have to understand that as the Blue Heron flies over your home on the way to its local fishing hole and spies your pond; a smorgasbord is what crosses the bird’s mind.

Make no mistake. The Blue Heron is a very successful and persistent predator that will literally wait at your water’s edge, motionless, for hours on end, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. The bird even has a trick to lure your fish to the surface for easy pickins. Regurgitation! That’s right, the Blue Heron will often blow chunks into the water, luring your fish to come up for a tasty snack. The fish then will become the meal themselves!

The very latest breaking news I have on these crafty birds habits are hunting your ponds on the full moon cycle! These Pond Predatory birds are crepuscular by nature, which I have always thought meant that they were by your pond hunting at dawn and dusk! The actual meaning of crepuscular is active in the twilight! I now have on record a Great Blue Heron hunting in a Koi pond, right here in Redlands at 10:30 pm on the last full moon in September! SO BEWARE!

Neighborhood Pond Predator Watch

Consider starting a Pond Predator Neighborhood Watch Program with your pond buddies! One morning on my way to work I got a call from a fellow pond owner and he said frantically, “Hey Eric, a Blue Heron just left my place and it’s heading in your direction!” I couldn’t remember if I had turned my Scarecrow back on after feeding my wife’s goldfish pond that morning, so I immediately flipped a U turn, quite possibly illegally, and broke several speed limits headed for home!

As I pulled into the driveway, I couldn’t believe my eyes; the Great Blue Heron was standing right next to my pond and YES the motion sensor was OFF! As the bird took flight above the rooftops, I picked up the phone and called the next closest pond owner I knew in the wayward direction of the Heron’s route!

Just remember, don’t forget to install fresh nine-volt batteries to your Scarecrows on a monthly basis because these Feathered Pond Predators will make daily rounds to your water feature testing your consistency! The day that you forget to turn your sensor on, turn off the water source or your battery dies, the bird will be there to capitalize on your forgetfulness. Oh, and by the way, I know what some of you animals might be thinking, but trust me when I say, “Don’t lay a finger on the bird!” The birds are protected and you could be fined $20,000.00 for harming this endangered species! So just stay sharp and out smart them!


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