George and Carl

This is George. I was introduced to him by some fishermen on the beach down in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I walked within 3 feet of him. He barely noticed me.

It seems George is in the habit of getting his meals by standing behind fishermen on the beach looking friendly until someone invariably throws him some bait or a fish that’s too small to be considered a keeper. Essentially, George has found an easy way to sustain himself. And since blue herons are typically solitary feeders, he’s not in competition with other herons for the fishermen’s generosity. Like his cousin Carl, for example…

This is Carl.

Unlike his cousin George, Carl’s not particularly fond of fishermen, or any humans for that matter.

Carl obtains his sustenance the way you might expect a large water bird to–from doing his own fishing. You won’t find Carl on the beach teaming with humans. No, he prefers the quiet bay across the highway. There are houses here, yes. But not nearly as many people. As it should be. To him, anyway. When he needs to eat, Carl goes fishing. If he doesn’t, he dies. It’s a fairly simple concept. Not necessarily easy all the time, but simple and easy are often more mutually exclusive than we tend to think they are.

But back to the beach…

George didn’t always depend on the handouts given to him by bemused fishermen. Like his cousin Carl, he went fishing when he was hungry. Physiologically speaking, he is still every bit as capable of surviving as Carl does–by doing for himself. But after years of being fed, what he once considered a gift has become in his mind an entitlement. He views those fishermen as a necessity, and if they all packed up and went away tomorrow, would George be able to survive again on his own? He may not like it, but I tend to think he would do what was necessary to survive. But let us assume for the sake of discussion that this is not George, not George, Jr., but George, III, who has never in his life fished for himself; who has lived his entire bird life being fed by the fishermen. What do you think his chances for survival are?

What do you think? If you had to choose between the life of George and the life of Carl, which makes more sense to you?

(I realize the pics are rather small. You can click on the image to enlarge.)

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