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Green Heron

Butorides virescens ORDER: PELECANIFORMES FAMILY: ARDEIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

From a distance, the Green Heron is a dark, stocky bird hunched on slender yellow legs at the water’s edge, often hidden behind a tangle of leaves. Seen up close, it is a striking bird with a velvet-green back, rich chestnut body, and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. These small herons crouch patiently to surprise fish with a snatch of their daggerlike bill. They sometimes lure in fish using small items such as twigs or insects as bait.

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Calls

Green Herons give a harsh, explosive skeow call that, once learned, is a distinctive sound of wetlands. They give it while perched, when flying, or when disturbed by an approaching predator. When disturbed at the nest they use a series of raspy clucks, kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk. They also give grating screams.

Other Sounds

Males snap their bills before mating.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Green Herons sometimes pay visits to ornamental fish ponds. A length of drain pipe placed in the pond can provide fish with a place to hide from feeding herons.

Find This Bird

Green Herons are common and widespread, but they can be hard to see at first. Whereas larger herons tend to stand prominently in open parts of wetlands, Green Herons tend to be at the edges, in shallow water, or concealed in vegetation. Visit a wetland and carefully scan the banks looking for a small, hunch-backed bird with a long, straight bill staring intently at the water. Their harsh skeow call is also a good clue. Green Herons are also distinctive in flight, with slow beats of their rounded wings making them look a bit like a tailless crow. Their habit of often briefly unfolding their neck during flight helps make them recognizable, too.