Dinner Time at the Horicon Marsh

Forster's Tern at the Horicon Marsh

Forster’s Tern

This Forster’s Tern expected to be waited on for dinner.  She stayed perched on the post and made no attempt to dive for fish.  Forster’s Terns look similar to Common Terns.  Forster’s Terns have longer tail feathers than wing feathers.  They have a large orange bill with a black tip, light gray feathers on their back, and white underparts.  Common terns have shorter tail feathers than wing feathers, gray bodies that blend in with their gray backs, and reddish orange bills with black tips.

Forster's Tern at the Horicon Marsh

I said I want fish and I want it now!

Instead of working for her dinner, she started calling.  She quickly became more insistent, much like chicks do when they are begging for food.

Forster's Terns at the Horicon Marsh

Courtship Feeding

Her valiant knight in shining feathers flew in with the gift of a fish.

Forster's Terns at the Horicon Marsh

Look what I brought you honey!

This courtship feeding often occurs after the pair bond has formed.  In terns, either sex may feed the other, but it is usually triggered by the female, according to the book Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide by Audubon.

Forster's Terns at the Horicon Marsh

A Perfect Hand Off

She gratefully accepts the fish and swallows it whole. The ritual was repeated until her appetite was satisfied.  It was a successful dinner date that strengthened their bond.

American Bittern at the Horicon Marsh

American Bittern

Another bird having dinner on the south side of Highway 49 at the Horicon Marsh was the American Bittern.  His color pattern, especially the streaks on his neck, are effective camouflage.  He stood very still, stretched his neck upward, and looked up to blend in with the vertical reeds.

American Bittern at the Horicon Marsh

Ready to Eat

He stretched his neck horizontally when he was getting ready to eat.

American Bittern at the Horicon Marsh

It only took a split second to pluck an unsuspecting fish from the water.  He tossed it with his bill a couple of times before swallowing it whole.

Double-crested Cormorant at the Horicon Marsh

Double-crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant dives underwater until he is totally submerged.  He also likes to eat fish.  He can hold his breath for more than a minute.  His blue eyes are stunning and unexpected.

Muddy Duck at the Horicon Marsh

Muddy Duck

This muddy duck is also a diver, which is no surprise by looking at him.

Ruddy Duck at the Horicon Marsh

Ruddy Duck

Here he is all cleaned up.  His real name is Ruddy Duck.  He dives for aquatic plants, insects, and crustaceans.  It was a treat to watch the birds eating at the Horicon Marsh buffet.

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