Herons, such as this green heron, are bait-fishing champions of the bird world. ©John T. Andrews

While green herons didn’t make this list of Top 25 Most Intelligent Nonhuman Animals, one particular green heron recently demonstrated why these birds make a good candidate for inclusion.

Watch the video below, in which a green heron uses a piece of bread as fishing bait. It’s theorized that the bird got the idea by watching anglers do similar things by chucking bread into the water or using maggots or worms on their their hooks to tempt fish in.

According to the BBC, herons are the bait-fishing champions of the bird world. Of the 12 species of bird known to use bait as a tool to catch fish, seven belong to the heron family. Across the planet, these birds have learned that places where humans regularly feed ducks and swans—usually with bread—are great places to fish.

A blue heron strides across a beach in the Galapagos. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

So, why didn’t the heron just eat the bread rather than exchange it for a fish? We can only speculate that the heron knows that fish protein provides a better source of energy than carbohydrates, thus it’s worth sacrificing the piece of bread for the fish.

If you have your own hypothesis—or other examples of smart bird behavior you’ve witnessed—do let us know!

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,


If spotting herons in the wild is your passion, look into our China trip and our Galapagos Islands cruises and tours.