The Heron Ate My Fish

No, really. A great blue heron has eaten two of my fish from my pond.

A few days ago a friend came by who is a realtor. He had closed on a house and they needed to relocate a couple of the goldfish they had in their pond. One was a fairly large one, almost koi-sized, and the other was a black and very slow-moving fantail with telescope eyes. We put them in and they seemed to be pretty comfortable in their new environment. I was kind of worried about the black one because he was slow and he kept drifting over to the filter net. I’d have to fish him out of there every day, but he eventually seemed to figure it out and stay away from it. His color did help him blend in with the pond, so I thought at least he was well camouflaged.

pondA couple of weeks later, I noticed that the big one disappeared. It was weird. I have seen no signs of raccoons or cats in our immediate area, no bones or carnage lying around, and the thing was just gone.

Then yesterday I noticed some of our water hyacinth was damaged. It looked like something had broken it apart. Even weirder. Obviously something has been hunting in my pond.

This morning Yingwen was in the kitchen and she had this surprised look on her face as she shouted out “check out that bird!”. I missed it, but Max saw it. It was a great blue heron, perched on top of the trellis, taking off. “That’s interesting…” I thought, not putting two and two together.

Just a little while later, Max was out in the backyard and he looked in the pond and said “Where are all the fish?” Oh my god – if that bird cleaned out my pond, I was going to start looking up heron recipes. Sure enough, I couldn’t find a single one of my 12 goldfish. They were all missing! There was a little metal sculpture of a pelican on the far side of the pond that had been pushed onto it’s side. I guess the heron felt a little cocky.

And then I saw the evidence. a pair of long black fins at the bottom of the pond were all that remained of the black one. That sonofabitch had been eating my fish.

Then I thought to myself that the other goldfish had been in that pond for quite some time, with no incidents. Why is it that when I added these two newcomers that suddenly I have a heron fishing in my pond?

I figured a couple of them might be hiding in the crevices between the rocks or under the waterfall, so I threw in a little fish food to see if they would come out. And what do you know, a couple of them did. Very shyly, like they were traumatized and worried, but there they were. And then a few more showed up – darting around the bottom quickly.

For the most part they’ve been hiding in there all morning. They will rarely poke their heads out to see what is going on, and I’m not really able to get a good count of how many are left. I counted five earlier, but they are being quite elusive. I think the big ones are hiding under the waterfall, and I saw some of the smaller ones under an arch that holds up the pot that the water lilies are planted in.

These fish are not stupid. They’ve been living in that pond for as long as they have because they know when to get out of the way when a big giant predator shows up. I need to figure out a way to give them a bit more defense, but I’m impressed that these things are talented enough to do such a good job of hiding.

Update: The rest of the fish are all accounted for, so it looks like just the two inexperienced newcomers became fish food. They obviously have learned how to avoid predators very well. They are still hiding underneath the rocks and cinder blocks though, and acting very cautiously.

4 thoughts on “The Heron Ate My Fish”

  1. We are having the same sort of problem. However in our case, we are quite sure that the Heron did in fact clear out ~ 12-15 koi from our pond. Does anyone know what might discourage the Great Blue Heron from lunching at our pond?

    We live in Wisconsin and apparently, the heron has cleaned 3-4 other ponds in the neighborhood.

    Any suggestions?

  2. Wow, same problem. Searching the net what to do. We have a natural pond and had about 2000 koi and gold fish. My husband thing the heron is going to clean it out. We will try a fake crocodile or even a fake blue heron. Apparently they are territorial. If it works we will let you know.

  3. I live in Mass. and have beautiful large Koi in a rather large pond, and about 50 babies born this summer. Last year I was visited several times by a Great Blue. I got a Heron Decoy, water scare crow and a floating alligator. The Heron ate four or five fish last year. This year he returned and has been relentless! Eating at least 8 fish. We netted the entire pond area after he ate several. This Heron began landing ON the netting and fishing thru the netting killing the fish but not being able to pull them thru to eat. He would land on the netting which is suspended about 8-10 feet above the water, wait for it to lower (it has a give to it) and stand on it to fish. NOW we are creating a motion sensored pully system to release a very large kyte Eagle that will scream as it flies over the entire pond area. Wish us luck!

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