Grey Herons Courtship Concert

Soundaryavalli Madhugiri

February 21, 2024

Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) are usually seen quiet sitting by the banks of a water body, or perched on a branch. Seeing them in action, particularly in a courtship performance, is seldom noticed, and it was indeed ‘ luck –by-chance’ for us to have witnessed that ballet recently!  This I can say will proudly remain in our hearts for a very long time.

On the 3rd of February 2024, my brother M.R Vijayaraghavan, his wife Radha Vijayaraghavan, both avid birders, along with me set out on a drive towards Bhoo Varahaswamy temple in Mandya district.

On our return, we stopped by water bodies looking for some bird activity. It was sweltering hot at 13:00 hours and to our surprise we did see a lot of bird activity during that peak afternoon!

We spent an hour looking at the birds and clicking pictures of River Terns, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Red-wattled Lapwings, Grey Wagtails, Paddyfield Pipit and a few other species. All of a sudden, we noticed a pair of Grey Herons flying right to the middle of the shallow wetland. We immediately started focusing our lens on them. At first, we did not realize what they were up to. As we continued looking at them and their actions for a while, it turned out that they were in full form, blending in complete synchrony with their  glorious courtship movements as if to perform for Beethoven’s symphony!

We enjoyed being the audience like in a theatre to witness this perfectly synchronized concert of these dancers for over 10 mins. While one of them flew up to descend towards the partner, the other one, with its body submerged in the water except for the stretched neck like a crane, looked in the direction of the other eagerly inviting.  And then as the partner descended to the water, this other heron with open wings welcomingly closed in. And then they both, one behind the other as if in ballet, one partner leading the other they followed each other, they then seemed to be still for a brief minute or two with their necks positioned like swans and well aligned; and, again, one of them suddenly sprung into action taking flight and landing on the mud patch in the water while the other delicately sailed slightly ahead. The one on the mud constantly had the wings slightly open and the feet tapping to keep the body in synchrony with the movement of the other. Both their bodies and their heads were well aligned to geometrical perfection all along!  The heron in the water, after moving to a short distance in the water a little away from the mud patch, with the grace of a ballet dancer, took a sudden turn towards the other looking face to face and started moving closer to be in unison. Then, all of a sudden, they both took off and flew further and far into the water and landed closer at the other bank.

We wished we stayed longer but then, it was nearing 14:00 hours, and we moved on after observing this matchless courtship ballet for a perfect symphony.

Photo courtesy : M.R Vijayaraghavan



To cite this page: 2024. Grey Herons Courtship Concert. Accessed on 2024-02-21.

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