Bird uses piece of bread as bait to catch fish (video)

The other day I posted a video of an invasive catfish on the Tarn River that hunts pigeons.

While we all know that birds hunt fish, not as many people may know that some birds use bait to hunt fish. Apologies in advance to the bird experts who have seen this before, and the vegetarians who got upset when I posted the video of the serial killer catfish. But it’s an astonishing video.

I think this may be a green heron, but if anyone knows for sure, drop it in the comments.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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35 Responses to “Bird uses piece of bread as bait to catch fish (video)”

  1. hollywoodstein says:

    Yes there are more than a few species where the young essentially do an apprenticeship. Happens in other animals too, like marmosets, where there are bounding developmental and ecological pressures. There are also others where the young hang around a bit and try to help out, but not very well before they are chased off, sorta like junior trying to help dad build a fence.

    The species in question comes from a class where apprenticeship hasn’t been observed, hence the dismissal for the species in question. With over 10,000 species of birds ( depending on who’s counting), and in an age of scientific specialization even Phds don’t know everything about their field. It could of been an artifact of captivity but from what I saw there was workmanlike intentionality, suggestive of communication of need and desire to satisfy said need. I chalked it up to another ” there are more things in Heaven and Earth..” experience.

    BTW, the finger quote experts were from Cornell, and the Smithsonian. I myself have raised everything from Toco Toucans, Black Palm Cockatoos, Birds of Paradise, Peregrine Falcons, and everything in between.

  2. milli2 says:

    I’ve never trusted those avocados. Shifty looking things.

  3. karmanot says:

    I wondered what that sound was!

  4. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Don’t be absurd. Lettuce, celery and tomatoes will only whimper a bit. It’s the damn avocados that scream like banshees.

  5. test

  6. evodevo says:

    Depends on the species of bird – there are many whose juveniles practice “helping”, i.e. the young from previous years help at the nest for several breeding seasons and then either take over the parents’ breeding territory or else go off on their own. It’s an inherited behavior, usually. It’s not that uncommon – I don’t know why your “bird experts” had never heard of it.

  7. Papa Bear says:

    That’s silly — they only scream when you rip them out of the ground (or off the plant, as the case may be)…

  8. Mere sorrow, which weeps and sits still, is not
    repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted into action; into a movement
    toward a new and better life.

  9. hollywoodstein says:

    And just to continue the theme here, the reason mankind has denied the mentality and intentionality of animals for so long is largely religious views of man as apart from animals.

  10. hollywoodstein says:

    But steak.

  11. hollywoodstein says:

    If we were truly moral, we’d all be vegan.

  12. hollywoodstein says:

    oh yes I did.

  13. hollywoodstein says:

    Oh no u didn.

  14. hollywoodstein says:

    Except cats. Cats are evil.

  15. hollywoodstein says:

    Amazing how long Skinner’s black box reigned supreme. I understand the research emphasis, but for that matter the approach would eliminate much of psychology due to the basic problem of knowing other minds.
    Also, too all the wasted energy over the nature nurture dichotomy.
    But really anyone with a pet knows there’s a little mind in there.

  16. hollywoodstein says:

    Another bird story. A fledling died up high in the sunroom and life intervened and it was three days before I could get to it. When I came into the room, the male parent circled my head, flew to the deceased, with great effort picked up the body, and straining flew it over to the trash can and dropped it in. He then returned to his perch and glared at me with the dramatic gopher stare.
    Or so I anthropomorphized.
    It caused me to write a sci fi script where humanoid crows and eagles and parrots become the dominant life form. Got to development, but couldn’t get the cgi feathers right back then. Perhaps I’ll repitch it with ants and cockroaches as the newly ascendant.

  17. hollywoodstein says:

    Be aware Irene’s work was controversial. The primary criticism being that she let her avowed emotions of love for Alex color the objectivity of her work. Nonetheless a landmark study. Along the lines of Dr. Penny Patterson’s work with Koko, but with a non primate.
    I have birds in my sunroom in cages but let others fly free. One pair had enough nests that year so I put them in a cage without a nestbox. I came in one day to see they were starting a nest on the cage bottom which was impossible since I wasn’t giving them any nest material. I thought maybe other birds building nests were alighting on the top of their cage and the caged birds were stealing their material, but I thought it would be hard to collect enough material this way before the other birds . The previous young of the pair were ferrying the material to the cage, passing it through the bars where the male would grab in his beak and add it to the nest pile in the corner. The young weren’t idly trying to build their own nest and drop it in the cage. They were delivering it to their parents. I had the opportunity to ask ornithologists about this, hypothetically of course, and they all said impossible.

  18. hollywoodstein says:

    This behavior has arisen independently in different areas, often by the birds noticing humans attracting fish by feeding bread. It then can be transmitted “culturally”, both to fledglings, and by unrelated birds watching and learning.
    Interestingly, no one has documented birds catching insects to fish with.

  19. karmanot says:

    It’s all over. Don’t let your babies swim in muddy waters.

  20. karmanot says:

    “how can vegetarians get angry at non human carnivores” They don’t, and that is an absurd transference. Most vegetarians I know do so for conscious and spiritual reasons and relate more easily to herbaceous eaters..But, I must confess, I swear I can hear the lettuce, celery and tomatoes in my salary cream out “Oh No Mr. Bill.”

  21. karmanot says:


  22. One damn interesting video, that’s what happens.

  23. UncleBucky says:


  24. I’d never heard of it, will look.

  25. Drew2u says:

    Either whales or dolphins have intergenerational teaching. Dolphins for sure with using sponges on their snouts and, I think using a rock as a tool. I don’t know about whales, though.

  26. Drew2u says:

    So what happens if the bird catches a killer catfish?

  27. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    As a vegetarian, I have no idea. I’m choosing not to watch the clip, because it might upset me – a bit. However, what occurs naturally in the animal kingdom is normal. I’ve tried to talk my cat into becoming a vegetarian, but she seems unwilling to agree.

  28. UncleBucky says:

    Also consider the phenomenon of intergenerational teaching (Macaques teaching the washing off of sand from sweet potatoes and language by other primates)… Can a bird learn this behaviour or is it able to be performed in isolation from other tool-using birds! :)

  29. UncleBucky says:

    Another person who risked her career was Lynn Margulis, and her “Gaia Hypothesis” and “Symbiotic Planet” works. I have been educated, inspired and changed by this woman. Sadly, she left us a year ago. Too soon. :(

  30. milli2 says:

    Perhaps this is a bad question, but how can vegetarians get angry at carnivores (non-human ones) eating other animals?

  31. HeartlandLiberal says:

    Up until just a couple of decades ago, animal behavior students could destroy their career by even hinting they believed that any animals were capable of thought and cognition. They would find themselves expelled from the scientific community for questioning the reigning dogma.

    That began to change with Irene Pepperberg and Alex the Gray Parrot. If you have never read her book, ‘Alex and Me’, you have missed not only one of the seminal incidents that totally revolutionized science and ended the Skinnerian Behaviorism model for understanding animal intelligence, you have also missed one of the most moving books about bonding between a human and an animal ever written.

  32. Stratplayer says:

    Color me astonished.

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