Rare pictures show herons battling over dinner


AMAZING pictures show a pair of normally unflappable herons locked in a vicious battle over their dinner.

The birds are normally seen standing stock-still in rivers waiting placidly to pounce on their prey.

But keen amateur wildlife photographer Allan Brown captured an altogether more vicious side to the birds’ nature as they stabbed each other during the five-minute battle.

Allan, 66, was photographing birds at Loch Leven nature reserve in Perth and Kinross last week.

The heron do battle
The heron do battle

Allan, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, said: “They started attacking each other – it wasn’t just a passing peck. It lasted about five minutes.

“I initially saw one heron. Then another one came along and swooped.

“At one point I thought – this bird is going to get killed. It managed to fly away but there was plenty of stabbing.

“I’m surprised it didn’t get hurt. I was quite stunned. The one that was being attacked flew away.

“Then the other one just stood there in its place looking quite chuffed.”

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) project co-ordinator John Marchant said: “It’s such an unusual thing. You normally see herons behaving perfectly amicably.

“You don’t see much of courtship or fighting. They normally fly over a huge area.

Another impressive snap of the vicious encounter
Another impressive snap of the vicious encounter

“Herons nest in colonies and are quite often seen standing around in groups – sometimes dozens together. They are often gregarious and cooperative.

“They do tend to feed alone, though, and this is where conflict can occur. I guess these birds are disputing a feeding area.

He added: “Great pictures!”

Numbers of herons in Scotland have been decreasing since the turn of the century. Breeding has already begun at some southern English heronries but most Scottish sites won’t be active for another month or two.

The BTO has run an annual census of nesting herons across the UK since 1928.

“They are looking for volunteers to send in counts of apparently occupied nests. This can be done online at http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/heronries-census.”