Like most ibises, this bird has a long, downwardly curved bill, which gives its silhouette a very particular appearance. In poor light it can look very dark and black, and when perched on the trees they may resemble black vultures, until the bill is distinguished. Their plumage is green overall. Their defining feature is the lack of feathers in the face, which sets it apart from the Green Ibis. They can be very noisy at dawn and dusk, specially if traveling in large groups. They forage mostly in the ground, in grassy fields or swamps where they can catch small invertebrates.
There are three species of Tiger-Heron occurring in Costa Rica, and they resemble each other, which means identification is difficult. All three birds are very big in size and not probable to be confused with other wetland birds. The first time I saw this species as on August 20th, 2017 in Rio Frío, Sarapiquí. At first my parents told me that they had seen a very big, barred bird walk past their home a few days before that, but they could not describe the bird detailed enough to identify it. The sighting was a great treat for the day. I have been able to see many individuals since that time, wandering across small streams and even approaching the garden at my parent’s home.
Tiger-Herons are found on swamps and rivers, where they stalk fish from the edge or shallows. They move very slowly and silently to ensure prey don’t even notice their presence. They also stay motionless for quite some time, waiting for the prey to be in short range, before sending their long beaks in lightning fast action as a spear. The long neck provides plenty of muscle power, as well as the possibility to grab prey from a distance. This species can also forage outside the water environment, something I have witnessed a lot of times at my parent’s home, where they walk looking for prey through the farmlands.