Green Heron

Butorides virescens[i]

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Much smaller than their better known cousin, the Great Blue Heron, these guys look like a cross between a chicken and a dinosaur. But then again, just like chickens, they are dinosaurs, just like all other birds. But still, these things are totally freaky looking with their stocky build and spindly legs with their big pointy bill, and the way they hold their necks tucked right against their back. Very strange looking critters, indeed. It, along with two other heron species was once considered part of the same species (previously called the green backed heron[ii]), but evidence has since divided them into three separate species.[iii]

They breed in most of New England,[iv] in all but the northernmost parts of the region. After breeding, they often wander very far, sometimes even as far as Europe before migrating south.[v]  And while common in much of the region, they are often hard to find.[vi] Because they are good at hiding. It is how they survive, and they tend to do poorly when they can’t find any nice places to hide.[vii] Otherwise, they not too fussy about where they live just so long as it is near a body of water; and they can be found in nearly all types of wetland environments.[viii]

They are not all green, only their backs and the top of their heads are green,[ix] though in poor light may look black or bluish black.[x] Also, their bellies are chestnut brown and their wings are grayish.[xi] They also have yellowish orange legs.[xii] And unlike their better known cousin the great blue heron, these guys are small, and they only get to be about 19 inches long,[xiii] perfect for hiding in marshes and swamps.

When hunting, they will wait patiently and motionless by the water’s edge and surprise their prey.[xiv] Unsuspecting fish and invertebrates will just wander up some body of water and then be snatched up by the green heron’s sharp pointy beak of death, and become a tasty lunch for the bird. And stealth is not their only way of finding food. Green herons have been observed using tools and bait to help them catch fish and other prey.[xv] They use all manner of objects including bread, sticks, smaller prey items, feathers or whatever else will attract their prey to the surface.[xvi] Pretty Clever. These birds seldom wade in the water, but then again unlike many other herons, the green heron is quite small.[xvii] And when they do wade, it is in very shallow water.[xviii] They have been known to dive in deeper water as well.[xix] They will often visit koi ponds,[xx] so you may want to protect your fish from them, or perhaps use the fish to attract the herons, depending on your preference. All these feeding strategies, they are quite adaptable, and it has been noted that they are also quite intelligent as well.[xxi] But, despite all their adaptability, they have been in decline over the last few decades.[xxii] It is thought that the draining of wetlands may be responsible.[xxiii]

They nest in a wide variety of trees, usually within a half mile of water.[xxiv] They will defend their breeding area against other bird species that could compete with them.[xxv] Yeah, they are not known for being overly friendly. More on that in a bit. Like I earlier mentioned, they don’t like other species, and usually there is only one breeding pair to a territory; though, they will sometimes breed in small colonies.[xxvi]

When excited, they raise their crests and let out a loud squawk sound.[xxvii] And if they get even more excited, they will crap in the general direction of whatever is bothering them, while flying to safety.[xxviii] Not only that but they will also puke in your general direction as well.[xxix] All in all, a good survival tactics. Puking and crapping at you, while John Cleese will only fart in your general direction. Amateur!

[i] Author Unknown “Green Heron” Wikipedia” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_heron 31DEC2016

[ii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” Wikipedia” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_heron 31DEC2016

[iii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” Wikipedia” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_heron 31DEC2016

[iv][iv] Kaufmann, Kenn “Green Heron” Audubon Guide to North American Birds” http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/green-heron 02JAN2016, adapted from ”Lives of North American Birds” Kaufmann Field Guides http://www.kaufmanfieldguides.com/ 2016

[v] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[vi] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[vii] Author Unknown “Breeding Atlas 2 Species Accounts – Green Heron” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba2/find-a-bird/(id)/1008 2017

[viii] Edited by Elphick, Chris, Dunning, John B. and Sibley, David Allen “National Audubon Society The Field Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” pg. 171. 2001, Chanticleer Press, New York.

[ix][ix] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[x] Kaufmann, Kenn “Green Heron” Audubon Guide to North American Birds” http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/green-heron 02JAN2016, adapted from ”Lives of North American Birds” Kaufmann Field Guides http://www.kaufmanfieldguides.com/ 2016

[xi] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[xii] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg. 160. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xiii] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg. 160. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xiv] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[xv] Edited by Elphick, Chris, Dunning, John B. and Sibley, David Allen “National Audubon Society The Field Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” pg. 173. 2001, Chanticleer Press, New York.

[xvi] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xvii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id

[xviii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xix] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xx] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxi] Author Unknown “Green Heron” Wikipedia” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_heron 31DEC2016

[xxii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxiii] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxiv] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxv] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxvi] Author Unknown “Green Heron” All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory

[xxvii] Zendeh, Soheil  “Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts – Green Heron” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/38 2017

[xxviii] http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/38

[xxix] Zendeh, Soheil  “Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts – Green Heron” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/38 2017

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