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Merlin Bird ID

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    Green Heron

    ID Info
    Silhouette HeronsHerons

    Green Heron

    Butorides virescens
    • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
    • FAMILY: Ardeidae
    Basic Description

    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.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Green HeronRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    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.

    Other Names
    • Garcita Verde (Spanish)
    • Héron vert (French)

    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.

    • Cool Facts