Green Heron – Profile | Traits | Facts | Call | Diet | Breeding

Green heron

The green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens is a small heron of North and Central America. Butorides is from Middle English butor “bittern” and Ancient Greek -oides, “resembling”, and virescens is Latin for “greenish”.

Green heron Overview

It was long thought of conspecific with its sister species the striated heron (Butorides striata), and collectively they have been referred to as “green-backed heron”.

Birds of the nominate subspecies (regardless of which taxonomic association is most popular) are extraordinarily uncommon vagrants to western Europe—

for instance, a sighting in Pembrokeshire in 2018 was solely the second recorded sighting in Wales; people from the Pacific coast of North America might equally stray so far as Hawaii.

Green Herons stand immobile on the water’s edge as they hunt for fish and amphibians. They usually stand on vegetation or stable ground, and so they don’t wade as usually as bigger herons. In-flight these compact herons can look ungainly, usually partially uncrooking their necks to provide a front-heavy look.

From a distance, the Green Heron is a darkish, stocky bird hunched on slender yellow legs on the water’s edge, usually hidden behind a tangle of leaves.

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens

Seen up shut, it’s a hanging bird with a velvet-green back, wealthy chestnut body, and a darkish cap usually raised right into a short crest.

These small herons crouch patiently to shock fish with a snatch of their daggerlike bill. They typically lure in fish utilizing small objects comparable to twigs or bugs as bait.

Green Herons live around wooded ponds, marshes, rivers, reservoirs, and estuaries.

Green heron Description

The green heron is comparatively small; the adult body size is about 44 cm (17 in). The neck is usually pulled in tight in opposition to the body.

Adults have a shiny, greenish-black cap, a greenish back and wings which are grey-black grading into green or blue, a chestnut neck with a white line down the front, gray underparts, and short yellow legs.

The bill is darkish with a long, sharp level. Female adults are usually smaller than males and have duller and lighter plumage, notably within the breeding season.

Juveniles are duller, with the head sides, neck and underparts streaked brown and white, tan-splotched back and wing coverts, and greenish-yellow legs and bill. Hatchlings are coated in down feathers, light gray above, and white on the stomach.

The green heron’s call is a loud and sudden kyow; it additionally makes a sequence of more subdued kuk calls.

During courtship, the male provides a raah-rahh call with the wide-open bill, makes noisy wingbeats and whoom-whoom-whoom calls in flight, and typically calls roo-roo to the feminine before landing once more. While sitting, an aaroo-aaroo courtship call can be given.


Length: 16.1-18.1 in (41-46 cm)
Weight: 8.5 oz (240 g)
Wingspan: 25.2-26.8 in (64-68 cm)

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens

Size and form

Compared with most herons, Green Herons are short and stocky, with comparatively short legs and thick necks which are usually drawn up in opposition to their bodies.

They have broad, rounded wings and a long, dagger-like bill. They typically elevate their crown feathers right into a short crest.


From a distance, Green Herons look all darkish. In higher light, they’re deep green on the back with a wealthy chestnut breast and neck. The wings are darkish grey. Juveniles are browner, with pale streaking on the neck and spots on the wings.

Green heron Habitat

The habitat of the green heron is small wetlands in low-lying areas. The species is most conspicuous throughout nightfall and daybreak, and if something these birds are nocturnal reasonably than diurnal, preferring to retreat to sheltered areas in daytime.

They feed actively through the day, nevertheless, if hungry or provisioning younger. Shore-living people adapt to the rhythm of the tides.

They primarily eat small fish, frogs, and aquatic arthropods, however might take any invertebrate or vertebrate prey they’ll catch, together with such animals like leeches and mice.

Green herons are illiberal of different birds – together with conspecifics – when feeding and should not see to forage in teams. They usually stand nonetheless onshore or in shallow water or perch upon branches and await prey.

Sometimes they drop meals, bugs, or different small objects on the water’s floor to draw fish, making them one of many few identified tool-using species.

This feeding technique has led some to title the green and intently associated striated heron as among the many world’s most intelligent birds. They are capable of hover briefly to catch prey.

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens

Green heron Behavior

Green herons are seasonally monogamous. The pairs type within the breeding range, after an intense courtship display by the males, who choose the nesting sites and fly in front of the feminine noisily and with puffed-up head and neck plumage.

They nest in forest and swamp patches, over water, or in vegetation close to water. Nests are a platform of sticks, usually in shrubs or bushes, typically on the ground.

Locations in bushes are most popular, with some nests constructed as much as 20 m (66 ft) off the ground though heights of a number of meters are more common. Rarely, massive numbers of those birds congregate in heronries for nesting.

Green heron Adaptation

Green herons are one of many few species of birds identified to make use of instruments. In explicit, they generally use bread crusts, bugs, or different objects as bait.

The bait is dropped onto the floor of a body of water to be able to lure fish. When a fish takes the bait, the green heron will then seize and eat the fish. When green herons catch massive frogs, they are going to drown them before swallowing them whole.

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens


Individuals of non-migratory populations evacuate their territories after breeding season to roam concerning the area.

They might or might not return to the earlier year’s breeding location, relying on whether or not they discovered higher habitat throughout these wanderings. In these populations, the breeding season is set by rainfall and consequent prey availability.

Green heron Breeding

The northern population strikes to its breeding ranges throughout March and April; close to the northernmost restrict of the green heron’s range, breeding is properly underway by the end of May.

The migration to the winter quarters begins in September; by late October, the birds are absent from areas the place they don’t keep all year.

At least the northward migration doesn’t appear to be affected by international warming; birds seem of their breeding ranges at the same time they did 100 years ago.

The clutch is normally 2–6 pale green eggs, that are laid in 2-day intervals (although the second egg could also be laid as much as 6 days later than the first). After the final egg has been laid, each parent incubates for about 19–21 days till hatching and feed the younger birds.

The frequency of feedings decreases because the offspring close to fledging. The younger typically start to depart the nest at 16 days of age, however should not totally fledged and capable of fend for themselves till 30–35 days old.

Sometimes – notably within the tropical components of its range – the green heron breeds twice a year.

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens

Green heron Facts

The Green Heron is a part of a complex of small herons that typically are thought of as one species. When lumped, they’re referred to as Green-backed Heron. When cut up, they’re the Green Heron, the widespread Striated Heron, and the Galapagos Heron.

The Green Heron is likely one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It usually creates fishing lures with bread crusts, bugs, and feathers, dropping them on the floor of the water to entice small fish.

Green Herons normally hunt by wading in shallow water, however, sometimes they dive for deep-water prey and need to swim back to shore—most likely with assistance from the webs between their center and outer toes.

One juvenile heron was seen swimming gracefully for more than 60 feet, sitting upright “like a little swan,” based on one observer.

Like many herons, the Green Heron tends to wander outside of its breeding range as soon as the nesting season is over. Most of the wanderers keep close by as they seek for good feeding habitat, however some travel long distances. Individuals have turned up as distant as England and France.

The oldest Green Heron on record was at the least 7 years, 11 months old when it was present in Mexico in 1979. It had been banned in Oklahoma in 1971.

green heron, scientific name Butorides virescens

How to search out Green heron

Green Herons are common and widespread, however, they are often onerous to see at first. Whereas bigger herons have a tendency to face prominently in open components of wetlands, Green Herons are usually on the edges, in shallow water, or hid in vegetation.

Visit a wetland and punctiliously scan the banks on the lookout for a small, hunch-backed bird with a long, straight bill staring intently on the water. Their harsh skeow call can be a great clue.

Green Herons are additionally distinctive in flight, with gradual beats of their rounded wings making them look a bit like a tailless crow. Their behavior of usually briefly unfolding their neck throughout flight helps make them recognizable, too.

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