The Sanibel Island Butt Wiggler (Video)

Close up of night heronIt was late afternoon 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.


Apparently, 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 victim. 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 »

  1. Oh Susan that was aweome. Love the captures and your graffic description is so much fun to read! Our cat Bengie does the bum wiggle too, but a heron doing it, that is new to us!

    • 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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