Green Heron

(Butorides virescens)

The Green Heron is common in wet spots across much of North America.

A solitary and secretive bird, the Green is stocky, dark colored, and small for a heron. The adult Heron has a dark rufous neck, gray belly, and dark, iridescent, greenish-blue back. The upper mandible of the bill is dark, and the legs are bright orange.

The juvenile has a brown-and-white streaked neck, slight crest on its dark head, and prominently light-tipped wing coverts.

Yellow spectacle-shaped markings surround the eye and extend to the bridge of the bill. These markings are present, but less pronounced, in the adult.

Green Heron Fishing

This species of Heron is relatively small; adult body length is about 17 to 18 inches long (45 cm). The neck is often pulled in tight against the body.


Green Herons inhabit small, freshwater wetlands, ponds, and stream-sides with thick vegetation at their margins. In winter, they frequent coastal
areas and mangrove swamps.


The solitary Green Heron usually forages from a perch, where it stands with its body lowered and
stretched out horizontally, ready to thrust its bill at unsuspecting prey.

One of the few birds known to use tools, this species of Heron will attract prey with bait (feathers, small sticks, or berries) that it drops into the water. When out in the open, it commonly flicks its tail nervously and raises and lowers its crest.

Another characteristic behavior of the Green, which may help with identification, is its tendency to fly away from a disturbance giving a squawk and defecating in a white stream behind itself. (Other small herons defecate forward.)

When alarmed, the bird may adopt the classic bittern stance, with head held vertical, looking across the base of its bill. This Heron commonly calls in flight--a sharp skeow or kyow sound.


The Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds. It commonly drops bait onto the surface of the water and grabs the small fish that are attracted.

Fish are the primary food of this opportunistic feeder. Crayfish and other crustaceans are also a source of food, as are aquatic insects, frogs, grasshoppers, snakes, and rodents.

Stands still next to water and grabs small fish with explosive dart of head and neck.

Green Heron Nest


During courtship, the male gives a raah-rahh call with wide-open bill, makes noisy wing-beats and whoom-whoom-whoom calls in flight, and sometimes calls roo-roo to the female before landing again. While sitting, an aaroo-aaroo courtship call is also given

Green Herons typically nest in trees near the water. The picture of this nest was taken in my backyard (Spring of 2011), we live about 100 yards from a pond where
several herons hunt.

Males stake out territories and call to attract females. Sometimes pairs form in migration, and the pair will select the site together.

Unlike most herons, the Green does not typically nest in large colonies.

The male starts the nest, bringing long, thin sticks to the female who finishes the nest.

Both parents incubate the 3 to 5 eggs for about 19 to 21 days.

Once the young hatch, both parents feed them by regurgitating food. Both help brood the young for about three weeks.

Green Heron

At about 16 to 17 days, the young herons climb about near the nest, and they first start to fly at 21 to 23 days. The parents continue to feed the young for a few more weeks until they fledge after about 30 to 35 days.

Migration Status:

Most of the Green Herons that breed in northern regions, will migrate to the southernmost United States, typically leaving in late August or early September.

Small numbers of wintering birds remain in the region. Post-breeding wandering is not uncommon.

Green Herons and Other Common Birds


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