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Species Description

Green Heron

Butorides virescens


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae

Description

The back and wings of the adult are blue-gray. The belly, front of the neck, and chin are white. The back and sides of the neck and the sides of the head are chestnut. The top of the head is greenish-black. On the adult, the legs are orange and the bill is dark. Immature birds are duller in color, with a streaked neck and yellow legs. 41-56 cm (16-22 in) long.

Life Cycle

The breeding season occurs from late March to late July, with a peak from mid-April to late May. The male and female build a platform-style nest of sticks and twigs in shrubs or small trees close to or over the water. The female lays from 2-7 (usually 2-4) eggs, which both she and the male incubate for 21-25 days. The young are semi-altricial and fledge from the nest 35-35 days after hatching. The adults take care of the young for approximately a month after they fledge. Then the young birds become independent.

Natural History

Nesting occurs in areas that are also used for feeding habitats, such as ponds, rivers, lakes, marshes, and mangroves. This little heron forages either by standing in the water, by sitting on a very low perch over the water to watch and wait for prey to come by, or by stalking its prey. Food items include fish, insects, invertebrates, and amphibians.

Range

Green Heron Region Map During the breeding season, the Green Heron is found throughout the central and eastern United States and along the West Coast. Within Georgia, it can be found in low to medium numbers throughout, except in the mountains. During the winter, it can be found within the southeastern portion of Georgia and throughout Florida.

Conservation Status

Increasing land use changes, wetland drainage, and water quality problems have caused problems, and could cause additional problems for this species in the future.

Similar Species

The two most similar groups of birds are the Bitterns and Night-herons, but the adult Green Heron is not commonly mistaken for other species. Plumage differences (brown color overall for the Bitterns, and striking black-and-white patterns for the Night-herons) make mistaken identities uncommon.