The Sanibel Island Butt Wiggler (Video)

Close up of night heronIt was late afternoon, a few weeks ago, and my knees were about to give out. They were screaming, “Stand up! Stand Up! We can’t crouch like this much longer!” But I didn’t want to move, my subject was about to strike and I was afraid I’d ruin the moment.

Standing on a small stretch of sand flanked by mangroves in the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, a highly motivated, yellow-crowned night heron was on a mission.


He was a handsome bird, all dusky grey with black markings that looked deep blue when the sun hit it. He had a yellow widow’s peak of feathers and matching yellow eyes. Curving back from his crown, two thin ribbons of plumage swayed in the breeze giving him a Bohemian air. If I were a lady night heron, he’d definitely get my motor revving.

The heron ignored me even though I was only a few feet from where he stood. Nor did he care about the 5 people standing behind me like a photographic firing squad. He had crabs to catch. Tiny, quarter-sized crabs that lived in the soft, soggy sand at his feet.

night-heron-on-sanibel-island-florida-1-2Apparently there were a lot of crabs. I couldn’t see them. I just watched as he locked on to one as if he had x-ray vision. Then, with laser-like focus he stalked it, his long toes lifting and flexing as he inched his way towards his prey.

In a flash the night heron would strike, plucking a crab from the sand then tossing it into the air to reposition it in his beak. A millisecond later the crab was gone, swallowed with a series of satisfied gulps.

My favorite part of the show, however, took place a few seconds before he attacked. When he extended his neck in preparation to strike his back end began to wiggle. It reminded me of the way my cat, heck, a lion for that matter, wiggles its butt in anticipation before pouncing on its intended meal. I had no idea that birds did it too! It was so cute I had to take a video. (see below)

(Be sure to check out the butt wiggle at 24 seconds….it’s so cute!)

night-heron-on-sanibel-island-florida-1-6For hours the night heron hunted along the 20 foot strip of land, scooping up dozens of unsuspecting morsels. And I loved the way he looked in the golden glow of the setting sun.

I left. I drove around the refuge. I went back. His butt was still wiggling and he was still drawing a crowd. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve sworn that he was on the payroll.

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10 replies »

    • Thank you, Laura… My favorite is the face on.. I love his expression. It has such a human quality to it. In addition, I get such a kick out of how dorky birds look from certain angles. Have a great day!


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