Heron displays impressive balancing skills on back of hippo
During a recent safari in the Kruger National Park these people were treated to the site of a large bird, daringly sitting on the back of a hippo while showing amazing balancing skills in an attempt to remain on the back of the hippo. The visitors stopped at a large dam to observe a variety of wildlife in and around the water. There were various species of water birds present together with a huge number of large crocodiles scattered around the edges of the water. Inside the water there were pods of hippo spread all over.
Suddenly they spotted a large bird called a grey heron, flying over the water. To their surprise, the heron landed on the back of one hippo in the middle of the dam. Grey herons are large water birds that are commonly found around shallow water bodies such as shallow rivers, lakes and open marshes. They spend their time hunting mainly fish, with a menu that stretches to aquatic invertebrates, rodents and even small birds. This specific bird seen in the video is no ordinary heron. Over time this bird has developed the insight to find an alternative fishing tactic. Instead of only hunting along the shallow edges of this deep dam, the bird amazingly figured out to use the back of hippos as a perching point to fish from. In the middle of the dam the bird has the opportunity to get to larger fish swimming in the deep waters.
Most of the time these hippos will tolerate the bird on their backs but there are times when things do not always go according to plan for the bird. The video shows the heron was perched on the back of a hippo that kept on moving around with no regard to the bird standing on its back. The hippo would roll from side to side and the heron would react to keep its balance by walking forward or backwards, just like someone would attempt to keep their balance on a drum floating in the water. This made for very entertaining viewing and we could not believe how determined this bird was to stay on the back of the hippo.
Eventually the movements of the hippo became more erratic when it started fighting with another hippo. Finally the bird gave up and flew off over the water. To everyone's amazement the heron didn’t seem to give up and flew over the water straight onto the back of another hippo with half its body exposed outside the water. It is rare to see an interaction between such two very different wildlife species. Hippos are known as one of the most aggressive and dangerous mammals in Africa. To see a large bird showing off incredible balancing skills on the back of one of these feared creatures was a fascinating encounter.