Green Heron – Portrait in Concentration & A Misunderstanding


Green Heron posed in late day sun at edge of wetlands


The green heron or Butorides virescens is sometimes called the green-backed heron. Named by Linneaus in 1758 virescens means becoming greenish or greenish. About the size of a crow, it is a small heron in the family Ardeidae like the large herons, but of the Genus Butorides rather than Ardea or Egretta.  The fierce little bird has a dark head with a small black crest and the back and wings being dark gray-green to dark gray-blue and edged in gold.  The neck is rust colored or burgandy colored with a black bill and orange or yellow legs.  A resident of Sub-Tropical North and South America the stocky little wading bird haunts the edges of fresh or brackish water marshes where they feed mostly on small fish, but also upon  frogs, tadpoles, snakes, snails and worms.

The male green heron will choose a nesting site prior to his selection of his mate. Along with visual mating displays, the nest site is used to attract his significant other. Being seasonally monogamous the male will select only one female for the season and aggressively defends his territory both before and after mating .   The female green heron lays three to six blue-green eggs in a nest made  loosely of sticks maintained by both partners; she constructs with materials he gathers.  Nests are generally built in trees or shrubs 10′ to 20′  high over or near water.  Eggs take about three weeks to incubate and these herons, like their larger relatives, are regurgitation feeders with hungry young being trained to grab the parents bill to stimulate the feeding process. Green Herons grow very quickly and are already fledglings by three weeks of age.

Often I have seen the Green Herons perched on low lying branches intently gazing into the water stock still. Then with an explosive dart of its head plunge headfirst into the water and come up with fish. Whether on the edge of the marsh or perched on a branch the Green Heron makes a portrait in perfect concentration. The Green Heron is also reported to be one of few birds species which will use bait to attract fish. Dropping things such as insects or feathers onto the water, it will wait and grab any fish which stops to look.

Below are some images of the Green Heron along with pictures of a big misunderstanding I had observing the first Green Heron nest with eggs I ever saw to photograph. I hope you enjoy this fierce, territorial little species of heron.


Green Heron Intently Concentrating

The penultimate fisherman, a Green Heron perches stock still following fishy prey in the water.  A second later he was under the water obtaining his meal.

Green Heron in Fern

Territorial by nature, the Green Heron stands sentinel as its nest is hidden within the branches of this tree decorated with lovely fern.  

Green Heron in branches squawking anxiously

The subject of my misunderstanding was this wildly sqawking Green Heron moving quickly within the branches of a tree hanging over the water. He is a bit hard to see here as it was when I was trying to follow its desperate movements.

Louisiana Heron or Tri-color After Green Heron Eggs

I was sure the wild agression of the Green Heron meant it was after the eggs of the delicate “Lady of the Waters,” Louisiana Heron pictured here  protectively (I thought) overlooking three lovely greenish-blue eggs.

Green Heron sitting on nest after conflict with Louisiana Heron

But, later when I returned to the spot I was completely surprised to see it was not the Louisiana Heron but rather the Green Heron incubating the eggs. The marauding intruder was the Louisana heron not the other way around!  Birds in nesting colonies are neighbors but not necessarily friendly ones and will prey upon each others eggs. I do not know if the Louisiana heron got the eggs that day and that the Green heron was sitting on eggs already damaged or if it was on a different day. But, on my return the following week the nest was present but no eggs and no nest defenders remained. Green Heron Among Reeds Focused on Duckweed Covered Waters

Green Heron searches the duckweed carpeted wetlands for food. Its colors contrast beautifully against brilliant yellow greens and a geometry of shadows courtesy of the descending sun.

Everyone enjoy this lovely spring weather!!

~ by Judy on March 28, 2013.

8 Responses to “Green Heron – Portrait in Concentration & A Misunderstanding”

  1. …. I actually had the privilege to observe a Green Heron fishing in the canal along the Owahee Trail — perched on the back of a snoozing alligator! Nature! Gotta love it! Gotta protect it!

  2. Uhoh! I’ve got some studying to do. I thought the Louisiana heron and the green heron were the same bird. Now I don’t know what I’ve been seeing around here! As luck would have it, I can use these wonderful blog sites and my Sibley’s to figure it out, now that I know I have something to figure out!

    Love that duckweed. I got a picture of it covering the water around the cypress at Lake Martin back in the days when I still thought it was algae!

    • Oh wow! Well I can definitely remember confusing birds in the beginning. The one that confused me the most was the Little blue heron vs the Reddish egret..very similar coloring but the reddish is a bit shaggier and the main thing was the little blue has a blueish bill with a black tip and the reddish has a pinkish bill with a black tip. Sometimes when you see things side by side then the distinctions really register. Heck, the first time I took a picture of a cormorant with its neck tucked down on Naples Beach..I thought it was a duck!! Course the bill was wrong. LOL!!

      Me too on thinking duckweek was algae at first. Love the richness of the color when it covers everything like a blanket. Interesting the green heron can sense the movement underneath that carpet and snag fish.

  3. Love seeing the always amazing greenie!
    I have photos of one using bugs as bait to fish.

  4. Just lovely!! Love these shy guys… And I ALWAYS seem to catch them right AFTER they’ve dropped their bait. I can see it on the water’s surface. One day I’ll catch it in action. 🙂

    Love the Tri with those beautiful blue eggs! You can’t dye them prettier!

  5. This is extraordinary good, taking pictures with high technique and very difficult

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: