Are Herons Smart? (See This…)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Herons are a group of leggy birds that are notable for their long necks, beaks and legs. They are usually found in different climates worldwide.

They feed at the water’s edge and feed on frogs, fishes and other small animals.

Herons are a smart set of birds and this can be seen in the way they hunt for food and plan their future meals.

They also know how to outfox their predators by keeping away from them.

Let us discuss what is special about herons, whether herons are smarter than dogs, whether herons can be trained to mention a few things. 

Are Herons Smart?

Are Herons Smart

Herons are any of approximately sixty wading birds with long legs that belong to the family Ardeidae.

They typically consist of many species commonly known as egrets. Herons are widespread throughout the planet but are most prevalent in the tropics.

Typically, they feed by gently wading through the shallow waters of ponds, marshes, and swamps, capturing frogs, fish, and other aquatic animals.

The nests are typically clustered into colonies known as heronries.

Herons are extremely intelligent birds, and they have been known to outwit their hunters by feeding at a distance from them.

For example, when it comes to catching fish, they show a great degree of intelligence in their hunting skills.

They may be able to prepare ahead for future meals if they know where their food comes from.

Researchers have even observed the use of a variety of baits by herons in order to attract prey to the slender neck.

Herons feed on koi fish and have been observed baiting them. They regurgitate into ponds and rivers which makes the fishes come running.

The koi’s main food is also fish and the smell attracts them. Once close the birds attack them and feed on them.

What is Special About Herons?

We have established that herons are smart birdies due to their hunting prowesses. However, there are some other facts which make herons special. 

  • Did you know, that herons hunt by rapidly extending their S-shaped necks towards their prey?  Fish and other games will be pierced and devoured whole with a sharp bill. Unfortunately, if a heron attempts to ingest extremely large prey, it can suffocate to death.
  • Herons are also one of the best fliers. Herons are proficient fliers that may exceed 30 miles per hour in flight. During flying, the neck is curved in an S-shape, and the legs are dangling behind the body. 
  • The average lifespan of a heron is about 15 years in the wild. These shows herons are long-lived and smart enough to last that long despite predators like racoons, minx and foxes. 
  • Also, although herons closely resemble some other birds such as storks and egrets, they make themselves different from those by flying with their necks pulled back and not outstretched.
  • Herons are symbolic and were often used to represent various things in ancient cultures including Egypt, Greece, China and Africa.

Are Herons Smarter Than Dogs?

There is no evidence to show whether herons are actually smarter than dogs.

Herons have in the wild perfected techniques for survival. They have outsmarted many pond owners by patiently waiting for their fishes to become prey.

Birds in general always display different types of sophisticated behavior. These include good memories and extensive communication. 

They also plan ahead and remember what happened before. Both problems solving and play have been observed in birds that are more than mere instinct.

All backyard birders are well aware that birds are capable of adjusting to a variety of locations and circumstances.

To lure fish into their nets, herons such as green herons and others use bread left over from duck feedings, picnic leftovers, or even little leaves.

This shows a great level of intelligence and smartness.

Dogs on the other hand as man’s best friend are also smart. There has been an explosion in the study of canine behaviour and intelligence over the last decade.

Several studies show canines to be unexpectedly adept at showing social intelligence and emotional sensitivity.

Dogs are useful to humans in many ways and as such their intelligence has been measured in relation to the way they act with humans.

Dogs and birds exhibit their intelligence on separate levels and are 2 of the smartest animals in the world.

Can Herons Be Trained?

Herons are wild birds and are not usually held in captivity to be trained.

These gorgeous wading birds are admired by birdwatchers and anyone who sees their careful feeding and broad wingbeats as they fly close to water.

Several scholarly works have over the years captured herons and banded them.

The sole purpose of this is to track their activities and learn more about these majestic birds. In this decade humans have been able to make extensive breakthroughs in heron behavior.

This includes where they spend the winter, how long they breed in the same colony, and how far they fly to get food.

Additional knowledge of nesting, post-breeding, migration, and wintering seasons has also been gained.

Herons generally do not do well in captivity, and apart from a few zoos and animal conservation centers, these majestic birds are usually admired from afar by humans.

Hopefully, with more research and insight, we can get to understand herons better.

Are Herons Aggressive?

Herons are shy birds and usually avoid humans. They also often try to avoid predators and will only show aggression when they feel attacked or threatened.

They display violent behavior when cornered and when they have nowhere to turn.

They are also overprotective of their young and will attack when their young are threatened. Herons are also discovered to be averse to touching and are usually aggressive when handled.

The breeds of herons also affect their aggression levels. Breeds include grey, great blue, goliath, black-headed and blue herons to name a few.

During the non-breeding season, grey herons, for example, are typically observed alone.

They demonstrate anger toward other birds by making head movements like a snake’s venomous fangs and by elevating their crests.

How Do Herons Communicate?

There isn’t much evidence on how all breeds of heron communicate with each other, however the great blue herons have been observed over the years.

Great Blue Herons are most loud in their breeding grounds. They welcome their mate with a squawking  landing cry as they approach the nest. 

When they are disturbed it’ll cause a sequence of clucking go-go-gos that crescendo to a fast, 20-second-long frawnk squawk.

If directly threatened, great blue herons will emit a screech that lasts around two seconds. Within minutes of hatching, chicks produce a tik-tik-tik call.

As part of breeding and territorial displays, both male and female Great Blue Herons snap their bill tips together.

This behavior is often compared to a songbird’s territorial song. Pairs of birds frequently “clap” at one another by rubbing the beak tips together.

These are several of the communication that are exhibited by herons.


There are many beautiful animals out there in the world and the heron is one of them. This majestic bird has been classified as been intelligent and we have outlined the various ways in this article. 

Humans will keep observing herons and the beauty of nature and be able to make deductions to make our planet a better place. 

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


HayFarmGuy - Get Info About Farm Animals in Your Inbox

Leave a Comment