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Swimming(!) Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

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Old Sunday 2nd June 2013, 11:02   #1
Tord
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Swimming(!) Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Late evening I was walking back to my car after a photo session. I had almost reached my car when I spotted this Grey Heron by the shoreline. Nothing special with this but the setting and light were nice so I decided to take some final pictures for that photo session.

Now, what? As I am taking the pictures, the Heron makes a long leap, out of frame, into the water (direction right from my point of view), lands under hanging branches (not visible in the first picture). The water is at least a meter deep, probably more. He/she starts swimming quite gracefully and after having done so for half a minute or so takes off from water, without any difficulties.

There was no hunt for food involved in any way, no diving, no picking/snapping... He/she just jumped into the water.

Attaching some pictures to give an idea of the scene, taken at about 50 meters distance.

Has anyone witnessed, or heard about similar behavior?
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Old Sunday 2nd June 2013, 11:40   #2
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I've actually had one do this in my garden pond (the third species I've seen swimming in there after mallard and cormorant(!)). I'm not entirely convinced they swim so much as walk in much deeper water than we'd expect.
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Old Sunday 2nd June 2013, 13:47   #3
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Here is a photo from a friend of mine - it is a Bittern swimming across Kenfig pool, south Wales.
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Old Saturday 8th June 2013, 22:27   #4
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I am sure the ardeidae cant swim, must be a combination of walking and paddling.
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Old Saturday 8th June 2013, 22:45   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dolhijn View Post
I am sure the ardeidae cant swim, must be a combination of walking and paddling.
or...arm bands?

Maybe it was thinking of having a wash but changed its mind possibly? and the wind was just pushing it along the water...that is if they can't swim
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Old Saturday 8th June 2013, 23:02   #6
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It was almost dead calm. He/she leaped Into the meter deep water of free will and swam.
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Old Tuesday 11th June 2013, 13:55   #7
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Quite interesting! I wonder about how swimming and walking would appear different from the surface. It might just depend on local knowledge of how deep the water is...

I'm particularly curious about how it flew off. I guess it had its feet on solid ground at that point - wouldn't these birds use their legs to initially gain altitude?
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Old Tuesday 11th June 2013, 14:16   #8
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Originally Posted by Gretchen View Post
Quite interesting! I wonder about how swimming and walking would appear different from the surface. It might just depend on local knowledge of how deep the water is...

I'm particularly curious about how it flew off. I guess it had its feet on solid ground at that point - wouldn't these birds use their legs to initially gain altitude?
Hi,

Again, the water is meter deep. No way the legs could be in contact with bottom so it must have propelled himself by swimming (at a moderate speed). It swam roughly at 45 degree angle from the shore, into deeper and deeper water. This swim lasted for 15-20 seconds. Then it took off.

To leave the water it started by working with the wings 3-4 times, which brought the body higher and higher, and then it took off at 30 degrees angle from water as would have been the case if taking off from land. There was a moderate effort in taking off, all of the motion (leap/land/swim/take off) was done in a quite elegant way.

I may have some additional pictures, blurry though.
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 04:51   #9
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I thought I saw this a few days ago with a Great Blue Heron. I had accidentally startled it, so it flew a little further and came down in the water behind some reeds. I was able to move and get a good view within seconds, whereupon I saw that it was in the water up to its chest. But by watching as it moved, I was able to satisfy myself that it was walking, not paddling. It moved forward in distinct strides, not little splashes, and it never drifted.

The interesting thing is, there's no way it could have judged the water depth from the air - the surface was covered in lily pads. So either it knew this part of the lake extremely well, or it had confidence that it could swim (and fly from a swimming start if needed).
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 05:34   #10
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Fascinating thread. Here's an earlier one on the same subject--
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....light=Swimming
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 06:51   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BWP-Grey Heron Entry
Gait a careful walk; swims rarely across deep channels

Seems its not unknown
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 06:55   #12
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just try searching for Swimming heron on google or similar... lots of hits
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 10:54   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fugl View Post
Fascinating thread. Here's an earlier one on the same subject--
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....light=Swimming
Hello Fugl,
Was reading through this thread and it is fascinating, when the thought of that prior thead came up.
Since, I've encounterd shorebirds also, that swim just as the larger waders, being Snipe, and Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs. Like ducks, they are.

Seen Jane Turners post and decided to 'google it' and lo and behold....
This dates back to 2003, been buried deep in archives, Black Crowns swam like a duck then
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=9416

Birdforum will always be in my heart though. No google, or bing, nor yahooian thing
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Old Saturday 29th June 2013, 14:53   #14
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Birdforum will always be in my heart though. No google, or bing, nor yahooian thing
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You got that right!
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Old Friday 5th July 2013, 15:55   #15
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Pretty sure I've seen this same behavior in Great Blue Heron, out on a lake in Oklahoma. I don't see why they wouldn't be able to swim- I've seen rails swim as well.
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Old Friday 5th July 2013, 18:28   #16
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They swim here too

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tord View Post
Late evening I was walking back to my car after a photo session. I had almost reached my car when I spotted this Grey Heron by the shoreline. Nothing special with this but the setting and light were nice so I decided to take some final pictures for that photo session.

Now, what? As I am taking the pictures, the Heron makes a long leap, out of frame, into the water (direction right from my point of view), lands under hanging branches (not visible in the first picture). The water is at least a meter deep, probably more. He/she starts swimming quite gracefully and after having done so for half a minute or so takes off from water, without any difficulties.

There was no hunt for food involved in any way, no diving, no picking/snapping... He/she just jumped into the water.

Attaching some pictures to give an idea of the scene, taken at about 50 meters distance.

Has anyone witnessed, or heard about similar behavior?
I have quite frequently seen Grey Herons land on the water in Lake Geneva to pick up bits of fish thrown back into the water by professional fishermen. In this case some distance from the shore where the depth is many tens of metres. They swim quite gracefully and look somewhat swanlike>>> They have no problem in taking off again.

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Old Friday 5th July 2013, 18:32   #17
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I have even seen a Common Buzzard swim, but it waqs a mistake as it was being hassled by a Carrion Crow and it hit the water so had a longish swim to the shore. It paddled along using its wings however. It made it and looked rather embarassed and went and hid under a bush to dry out!

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Old Sunday 2nd July 2017, 00:44   #18
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by bittern View Post
I have even seen a Common Buzzard swim, but it waqs a mistake as it was being hassled by a Carrion Crow and it hit the water so had a longish swim to the shore.
Interesting that it couldn't take flight from the water ... I've seen a Northern Goshawk diving into the water deliberately twice in short succession. The first time, it flew up from the water almost immediately, the second time it swam to the bank with strokes of its wing.

While I was unable to see it at the time, from the photos and video snippets I had taken (at dusk, with insufficient light), I concluded that the goshawk had been hunting a Common Moorhen, which probably evaded the first dive but was caught by the second.

With the prey in its fangs, the normally more powerful goshawk apparently was in the same situation as the buzzard you observed, and had to swim (though the distance was rather short).

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Henning
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