Cooperative Fishing

Last night this alligator was fishing in the salt marsh during low tide and his activity also attracted the attention of a great blue heron. It’s not uncommon for wading birds such as herons and egrets to fish close to where an alligator is active. The gator will get the fish all stirred up and then the birds can grab them more easily as the fish attempt to flee in a total panic.

Here, the alligator lunges out of the water after some fish and you can see how the heron is on high alert, keeping an eye on both the startled fish and the enthusiastic alligator. I also thought is was kind of funny that the heron never moved an inch when that gator burst up out of the water in front of him!

Alligator and GBH Fishing in Salt Marsh

Alligator and GBH Fishing in Salt Marsh

Alligator and GBH Fishing in Salt Marsh

Alligator and GBH Fishing in Salt Marsh


32 thoughts on “Cooperative Fishing

  1. The stealth of a gator, the grit of a heron! The bird was probably saying, “it’s about time you do what you do so I can eat…”

    • At one point the heron had caught a small fish just as the alligator surfaced abruptly in front of him. The heron dropped the fish and really jumped back on that one!

        • I’m not sure how the birds know, but as many times as I’ve seen a gator get a bird it’s never in a situation like this. Somehow the birds know when the alligator just wants fish. Well, at least that’s the eternal hope anyway.

            • If an alligator is hunting a bird it will go into stealth mode under the water and sneak up slowly and quietly then suddenly bust up and grab the bird which never even knew the gator was there.
              Or… some extremely unlucky bird will not be paying attention and practically land on some alligator’s nose. The alligator, which previously may not have been thinking about grabbing a bird will seize the presented opportunity and go for it. It happens.

  2. That’s a great example of the complimentary actions in nature. Boy, it was like that heron though “I’d better just stand really still until he’s done.” Amazing! Great shots of Mr. A lunging.

  3. I wonder if the gator is tough-skinned enough to withstand a heron peck. I’d still give the upper hand, so to speak, to the alligator, but the heron could inflict a little damage too, I bet. I would think they are all on instinct and know what’s up with each other.

    • I can tell you I would not want to be standing next to one of these birds that was really mad at me. I’m betting that sharp bill would go clear through to the bone if it stabbed at my leg. Of course I would prefer not to be next to an alligator that was really mad at me either.

    • The heron is quite smart actually. Well smart enough to keep one eye on Mr. Alligator and the other on fish.
      There was an egret out there too (Radar) I have some pics of them as well.

  4. Excellent sequence and observation, Phil. I like it when animals take advantage of the feeding activities of other animals. I have repeatedly observed an osprey watching a GBH tracking fish, and swoop on for the fish when it gets away from the heron. Birds are smart people.

    • Here in the winter, the eagles will watch the ospreys fish and then swoop in to steal the fish from the osprey.
      We often see these waders fish around an alligator. So far so good… 🙂

      • It truly is an ecosystem, in the fullest meaning of the word. The animals all rely on each others. Remove one species, and things get off-kilter, don’t they?

  5. Wish at times I had that GBH’s focus/concentration skills! Gator would have had my flight skills activated and I would be long gone!

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