Protecting Birds from Fishing Lines, Lures and Hooks

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron(Nyctanassa violacea) with fishing lure dangling from its mouth during the low tide along the shore of Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

Protecting birds from fishing lines, lures and hooks is critical to the welfare of birds and keeping birds safe from injury or death from these items. One of the most rewarding experiences to me is to photograph wildlife especially birds in their natural habitat. However, one of the saddest experiences for me as a conservation photographer is when I see a bird in danger or in distress from litter from fishing lines, lures, hooks or other fishing gear.

Encounter with Yellow-Crown Night Heron Juvenile Threatened by Fishing Lure

Last week, I went to Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia in the early morning. On this clear morning, I saw this yellow-crowned night heron juvenile near the shoreline along the low tide of Mill Creek.

I noticed this heron was chewing on something that was red and white. I kept moving in closer to see what this object was in this young yellow-crowned night heron’s mouth. Meanwhile, I took pictures of this yellow-crowned night heron juvenile as I tried to figure out what was in its mouth.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) walking in the water at low tide in Mill Creek with a fishing lure in the heron's mouth and fishing line attached to lure at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron walking in the water at low tide in Mill Creek with a fishing lure in the heron’s mouth with fishing line attached to lure at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron trying to swallow fishing lure

Then, suddenly, I realized it was a fish lure and saw a fishing line that this heron was dragging behind itself. My initial thought was that I had to help this bird as I initially thought the lure was hooked to the bird’s mouth. I happened to be here at Fort Monroe with my spouse who I sent to the Fort Monroe Police Station just a few hundred yards away to get help for this bird. The police station was closer than the park headquarters as we did not have the phone number to the park headquarters.

As I continued to observe this bird, I did not see any signs of it being in distress such as raised wings, loud screeching or screaming or even any panting. Before my spouse reached the police station, this juvenile yellow-crowned night heron released and dropped the fishing lure from its mouth.

Yellow-crowned night heron drops fishing lure from mouth

I was relieved to see that this heron was not hooked to the lure and fishing line. However, I continued to observe and photograph this heron as this bird kept picking up this lure from the sand area and trying to eat it.

After a long ten minutes, I was glad when the juvenile yellow-crowned night heron dropped this lure for the final time and walked away from it. Witnessing this bird trying to eat a lure and having a fishing line wrapped around its body was alarming to me as an individual and as a conservation photographer. This is an example of why we need to protect our birds and wildlife. We must clean up after ourselves when outside in nature so we may continue protecting birds and wildlife.

This incident with this yellow-crowned night heron juvenile trying to eat a lure made me think about what one should do as individuals in protecting birds from fishing lines, lures and hooks.

uvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) with fishing lure in the water that this heron just dropped from its mouth along the shore at low tide in Mill Creek at  Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron after dropping fishing line and lure in the water along the shore at low tide in Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

Tips for protecting birds from fishing lines, lures and hooks

Firstly, dispose of all fishing gear in a proper manner such as in a trash can or pack up all your gear and take with you. Do not leave your fishing gear such as fishing, line, lures, hooks or even bait near the water or even on land. We need to make sure the water and surrounding areas are free of debris. These fishing lines, lures, hooks and metal weights present significant dangers to birds and wildlife. Here are a few tips for protecting birds from fishing lines, lures and hooks.

When practicing catch and release when fishing, do not leave the hook in the fish. Please remove the hook and dispose of the hook properly.  

If you accidentally hook a bird, try removing the hook, if possible. Call the local animal control or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or even local park rangers, if unable to remove the hook from the bird.

If you discover a bird or animal that is entangled in fishing line or hooked with a fishing hook, call the local park ranger, animal control or licensed wildlife rehabilitator so that they can assess the bird and its situation to determine what injuries the bird or animal may have.

Educate others about the harmful and deadly impacts that birds and/or wildlife have from improperly discarded fishing line, lures, hooks as well as other fishing tackle.

Lastly, if you are out in nature a lot watching, observing or even photographing birds or wildlife, it is important to have the park headquarters, local animal control and a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator phone numbers in your cell phone.

How to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area

With this experience that I had seeing this juvenile yellow-crowned night heron in possible distress, I was unprepared as I did not have any contact information for the park headquarters, local animal control and a local wildlife rehabilitator. So, I learned this lesson and have included these contact numbers in my phone so that I am better prepared in the future.

To find a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area, the Humane Society has a listing for links to each state and where to find local wildlife rehabilitators in that state.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) picking up a fishing lure in the water during low tide in Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron kept picking up and dropping a fishing lure attached to fishing line in the water during low tide in Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

Please help keep our birds safe

As a passionate bird lover, bird photographer and conservation photographer, I urge everyone to please help keep our birds safe from fishing tackle debris by picking up after yourself, by picking up after others and by helping birds when they are in distress. Let’s keep our birds and environment safe for all of us to enjoy.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) unharmed by encounter with fishing line and lure in mouth during low tide along the shore of Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron unharmed by encounter with fishing line and lure after walking away from the fishing line and lure during low tide along the shore of Mill Creek at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

Thank you for reading my Field Notes blog, and I hope you will share this post with others.

Let’s protect our wildlife and nature!

All the very best,

Lori

https://linktr.ee/LoriACash

Copyright © 2021 Lori A Cash

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6 thoughts on “Protecting Birds from Fishing Lines, Lures and Hooks

  1. Great blog post and story!!! So true, cleaning up and thinking of others and wildlife, the environment. I will share!

  2. Great info on keeping our wild birds safe. I have seen wild birds hooked with fishing hooks with line attached and it simply breaks my heart. When possible, we alert the wildlife people. It’s important we pick up after ourselves. Thanks for writing on an important topic, Lori ❤

    1. Thank you so much, Joanne! I know this is so heartbreaking that folks do not care about how their actions effect our wildlife and our environment.

  3. It’s very sad to see a bird hooked to a fishing line and not be able to do anything. Thanks for this post, hopefully people will see it and pick after themselves.

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