SIB “Bird of the Week” – Green Heron

Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Length:  18″; Wingspan: 26″; Weight: 7 oz.

Green Heron on the hunt - Ed Konrad
Green Heron on the hunt – Ed Konrad

A relatively common sight on Seabrook Island, the green heron is a dark, stocky bird that appears to hunch over on slender legs, often at the edge of a pond, marsh or stream. Seen up close or through binoculars, it is a distinctive bird with a velvety green-gray back, a brownish burgundy body and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. Its broad, rounded wings are dark grey, and its legs are a bright yellow. In flight, the green heron’s extended neck gives it a front-heavy, ungainly appearance.

The green heron feeds on small fish, crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles or aquatic insects. Sometimes the bird will ‘bait’ its prey, dropping twigs or feathers on the surface of the water as lures. The bird crouches motionless in the shallow water waiting for its prey to approach, then uses its long, straight dagger like beak to snatch up its food when it is within striking distance.

Green herons prefer to nest as isolated pairs or in small groups. The nesting site is usually in a shrub or tree 5-30’ above the ground, but occasionally herons will nest on the ground. Nests are platforms made of sticks: the male will begin nest construction, and then the female takes over while the male continues to forage for building materials for her.

Female herons will lay as few as 3 and up to 7 eggs at a time. Incubation is by both sexes and lasts 19-21 days. Both parents feed the young by regurgitation. Young herons begin to climb out and around the nest 16-17 days after hatching and will make first test flights at 21-23 days. Herons produce 1-2 broods per year.

Green herons are sometimes difficult to detect because of their dark plumage which helps them to blend into shaded areas and vegetation along the water’s edge. Their harsh ‘skeow’ call along with slow beats of rounded wings and an ‘unfolded’ neck in flight are good clues to the observer that you have spied a green heron!

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Lyn Magee
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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