Green Heron Butorides virescens
Sound (236 KB)
18 inches (46 cm) W 26 inches (66 cm)
• Greenish upperparts and dark cap
• Chestnut neck and chest
• Yellow facial skin
• Center of throat and neck are white
• Sexes similar
• Small, short-legged and short-necked heron
• Yellow legs
• Tucks neck in close to body in flight and often at rest, rarely extending it
• Black cap
• Blue-gray back and wings
• Chestnut neck
• White chin
• White stripe down center of neck
• Reddish-brown and white streaks on head and neck
• Extensive white spots on wing coverts
• No similar species. Least Bittern is much smaller with buff head and neck and buff patches on wing coverts.
Common near streams, ponds, marshes, coastal wetlands, lake shores, wet woodlands, mangroves. Inhabits both fresh water and salt water marshes. Often seen perching in trees. Solitary. Flight is rapid. When alarmed, flicks tail downward, streches neck and raises crest. Roosts on or close to ground. Tends to feed during early morning and late afternoon.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Forested margins of ponds, rivers, lakes, marshes, swamps, mangroves. Occasionally 2 broods. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: Raises crest when excited. Male erects neck plumes, swells throat, and calls while strutting (hopping from foot to foot) before female. Territorial display includes forward stretch exposing red mouth lining while calling.
NEST: In absence of trees and shrubs, on tussock in emergent vegetation. Usually concealed, flat, of interwoven sticks (occasionally green) and twigs near or over water. Usually unlined or occasionally lined with finer materials after laying. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: 2 to 4 light greenish/bluish green. 1.5" (38 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Both sexes incubate. Incubation takes 21-25 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed). Young are able to fly after 34-35 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Fish, insects, aquatic and terrestrial inverts, lower vertebrates. Mostly fish in late summer. Young fed solid regurgitant.
CONSERVATION: Winters s through Antilles to n South America. Common in most of U.S., but locally rare in w.
NOTES: Usually solitary, occasionally small colony. Young hatch asynchronously, climb expertly; tended by adults for more than 1 month after leaving nest. Forages on territory by slowly stalking prey or crouching and waiting for food to come by; occasionally rakes shallow water bottom with foot to stir up prey. Formerly known as Little Green Heron and as Green-backed Heron.
Butorides virescens GREEN HERON. Ponds, rivers, lakes, lagoons, marshes, swamps, mangroves. To 1850 m. From sw British Columbia, w Washington, w Oregon, Calif., s,se Nevada, se (nw?) Utah, nc (?) Colorado, w,sc New Mexico; in c,e North America from e,s Texas, w Oklahoma, w Kansas, c Nebraska, e S. Dakota, c,se N. Dakota, n,c Minnesota, n Wisconsin, nc Michigan, s Ontario, s Quebec, s New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, s through U.S., Mexico (exc. c interior), Middle America and W. Indies to e Panama, Pearl Is., Tobago and islands off n coast of Venezuela from Aruba e to La Tortuga and La Blanquilla. Winters from w,s U.S. s to n South America.