When it comes to fishing, the green heron is very still and patient. While waiting for his prey to swim up to the surface, this particular heron was joined by a painted turtle near his perch on a log in the middle of a pond. green herons are a small heron that are most widely distributed throughout much of the U.S. and up to Canada. Their favorite habitats are near large marshes, streams, and ponds, in fresh or salt water.
The green heron can range from 15″ to 22″ (38-56cm), which is about crow sized. They are a small dark heron with bright orange or yellowish feet. Their head and neck are chestnut in color. The crown on their head is black with a small crest, while their back and wings are dark green-gray.
A green heron’s voice is explosive, with rasping “skyou” calls, in addition to croaks, cackles, and clucks.
These little herons often prefer to hang out in ponds or sand flats during low tide, but this guy was just fine perched on a log fishing alongside his painted turtle neighbor. Green herons will stand motionless in a crouched position watching for small fish in the water, their head and neck extended to spot prey.
What They Eat
Green herons eat quite a variety of prey, including: killifishes, minnows, catfish, carp, goldfish, bass, eels, frogs, crayfish, prawns, crickets, katydids, dragonflies, water bugs, diving beetles, leeches, snails, earthworms, and even small snakes or mice.
Green herons may build their nests away from water in dry woods and orchards, or in open marsh, away from trees. Their nests often consist of a structure of reeds and cattails on low tussock or pre-existing muskrat house.
In the U.S., they lay their eggs from March to July. Elsewhere, they may lay eggs between April and June. Generally, they lay 3-5 pale green or blue green eggs at a time.
Both sexes incubate the eggs for 19-21 days. When the young hatch they will begin to take their first flights 21-23 days after hatching. They will stay with their parents and continue to be fed by them for a few more weeks.
Other names for the Green Heron include: chalk-line; crab-catcher; fly-up-the-creek, green bittern, little green heron, poke, shitepoke, skeow, skow, and swamp squaggin.
I prefer to call these guys “little green heron”, because they are one of the smallest of the herons. They are also one of the most colorful, especially with those bright orange yellow legs.
This particular little green heron, fishing alongside his painted turtle buddy, was very comfortable with me photographing him. He would glance over at me while preening and give his feathers a good shake. Preening is often a sign that birds are relaxed and ok with your presence. After our brief photoshoot, he watched me pack up my gear, and then we parted our ways.