Shadow fishing

What is this Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) doing as it raises its wings and dances in circles in the coastal bay marsh on Assateague Island? It’s called shadow fishing or canopy fishing and apparently it’s a behavior that’s not well understood.

Tricolored Heron shadow hunt AINS

Tricolored Heron shadow fishing

TCHE splash

Tricolored Heron making a splash

Some speculate that by casting a shadow with its wings a Tricolored Heron can improve its view of underwater prey. Others suggest that the shadow lures out tasty fish, amphibians and crustaceans that equate a shadow with cover. Shadow feeding is just one of several foraging behaviors employed by Tricolored Herons. They also stalk and wait; lope and chase; lunge; scrape the bottom; even grasp a small fish out of the air. All in all, they are an entertaining wader to watch.

TRHE hunt2

Watching and waiting

TRHE food


Maryland is at the northern edge of the Tricolored Heron’s range, so it is a treat to see this handsome bird in action.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron in coastal bay wetland of Assateague Island National Seashore




About the author Martha Johnston

A Master Naturalist toting a point & shoot camera and a basket full of field guides.

All posts by Martha Johnston →

One Comment

  1. Cindy S Ballard June 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Amazing photos.

    Liked by 1 person


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