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HomeCosta RicaCosta Rica Wildlife: Meet the Bare-Throated Tiger Heron

Costa Rica Wildlife: Meet the Bare-Throated Tiger Heron

The bare-throated tiger heron has stripes all down the back of its long neck, and I have to assume these tiger stripes are the origin of its name. But it has another tiger-like quality. It can roar.

My bird books describe the tiger heron’s voice as ‘a hoarse, raucous howk-howk-howk’ or ‘a rolling, gravelly wowrrh.’ However you describe it, when you startle a bare-throated tiger heron, you’re going to hear a big noise coming out of a big bird.

For my money, the real roars come out of the males during mating season. They perch themselves on a sturdy branch of tree and belt out a ‘hoarse, booming hrrrowwr! horrowr! hrrrowr!’ It’s a little difficult to appreciate in print but you’ll know it when you hear it.

Or at the very least, you’ll know there’s something in a tree making a huge noise. And if that tree is located near a body of water, you might be hearing the roar of the bare-throated tiger heron.

That’s because tiger herons are almost always found in wetland habitats. Along both coasts and throughout the country (where the elevation doesn’t get too high) tiger herons can be found patrolling the mangroves, marshes, riverbanks and even roadside ditches for their prey.

Because sources of water are important locations for placing camera traps, I record a lot of videos of tiger herons. And because they do most of their hunting along the water’s edge, I’ve gotten an intimate look into their feeding habitats.

Surprise of all surprises, they eat a ton of fish, but I’ve also recorded videos of them chowing down on crabs, crayfish, frogs and once, along the Cañas River, I recorded a tiger heron eating a juvenile crocodile.

Of course, tiger herons aren’t the only species attracted to these water sources, so a well-placed camera trap will reveal how tiger herons interact with other species. I can give a few examples. Tiger herons are the bully of the heron family.

If a tiger heron is patrolling the same puddle as a little blue heron or a snowy egret, it’ll claim the best spot at the table with a few quick jabs of the beak.

The tiger heron’s interactions with mammalian species are a little more ‘you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.’ I’ve recorded videos of tiger herons sharing space with agoutis, coatis and white-tailed deer.

They generally avoid each other but sometimes the tiger heron will puff out all of its feathers, making itself look big in a threat display. This can have the desired effect of startling off the intruder, but sometimes a coati or deer will be unimpressed and chase the bird off.

Take a closer look at the bare-throated tiger heron for yourself and check out the camera trap video below.

About the Author

Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. Learn more about his projects on facebook or instagram. You can also email him at: vincent@guanacastewildlifemonitoring.com

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