This week, we’ll take a look at one of the smallest herons – the Green Heron. This slight bird, when full grown, measures only about 44cm (just under 18”), and with its small size and variegated color, tends to easily blend in with the background.
Once you spot one, they are easily recognized – from the head, neck and breast ranging from a brownish to reddish color, the greenish feathers on the wings and back, and the bright legs (which range from a yellow to vivid orange color), this bird is not easily mistaken for anyone else!
As with other herons we’ve reviewed in recent weeks, this one is also a resident of the swamps and wetlands. We in Florida are lucky enough to have them all year around, but most of the US sees the Green Heron only as a winter visitor. They tend to summer in Mexico and Central America, and are spotted as a migratory visitor in the southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as parts of California and Texas.
Green Herons can be found in both salt and fresh water. They tend to favor mangrove-lined shores and estuaries, and dense, woody vegetation fringing ponds, rivers and lakes.
You just have to love a bird with as much color as these herons have! Note the darker orange legs in this one:
The Green Heron can also seem to change its body shape. By stretching its neck, it elongates its body considerably, but it tends to spend much of its time with neck pulled in – giving it a short and stocky look.
It is a crafty fisherman, stalking its prey in shallow water – and occasionally using bait! Yes, the Green Heron has been known to drop feathers, bits of leaves, and even insects into the water to attract fish – which it then, of course, dispatches quickly and skillfully.
I’m not aware of very many birds out there that actually use fishing gear and bait!
They may hover occasionally in their fishing regimen, but aren’t usually seen engaged in the type of canopy feeding that you see in Little Blue Herons,, Tricolored Herons, and Reddish Egrets.
Small and unassuming, yet brilliantly colored, the Green Heron is a gem in the avian world. Keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re birding near a waterway, and you’re likely to spot them!