Bird: Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Height: 19"

Description: Small, low-profile heron that often contracts neck until it is indistinguishable. Top of head is dark, sides of head and neck are rusty-brown or dark-maroon. Skin around and in front of eye is yellow. Bill is yellowish with a dark top. Length of bill is proportionate to head. Wings and tail feathers are gray with greenish highlight. Legs and feet are yellow. Legs of male turn orange during breeding. Front of neck shows alternating, lengthwise white and dark stripes. Juvenile is brown overall with heavy, dark streaks.

Voice: Very harsh, frequently used, easily distinguished voice. A rounded "khow.. khow", or a short chirp, also a sharp edged "kah,kah,kahah", and a drawn out "raaaahhh. raaaahhh." that is made when flushed or startled and in aggression. Audio is available at

Green Heron 4

Feeding: Perch motionless on bent bulrushes or fireflag flower stalks and stare into water or dense layers of green duckweed. They strike, sometimes blindly, and almost always come up with a minnow. One birder I ran into suggested that the Green Heron was watching and reading the surface ripples (another suggested that the Green Heron can "see" the heat emitted by the fish). Eats small fish, amphibians, and insects. Has a broad diet that allows it to breed on small inland ponds that won't support other herons.

Other Behavior: When alarmed or aggressive, the Green Heron will raise its crest. It is a territorial bird and will not tolerate intruders. It attacks on sight by flying toward the intruder and repeating a loud, guttural, "annnck, annnnck" call. This same call is repeated to signal a threat. The Green Heron flushes very easily and often unexpectedly. This is often the way the bird is identified. The Green Heron can be found at Wakodahachee in plentiful numbers year round.

Green Heron 1

Click here for more information on the Green Heron from

In all the stories I've heard, The Green Heron is described as a shy and secretive bird. At Wakodahatchee this is not the case. Green Herons frequently fish in the Bulrushes and Fireflag bushes directly under the boardwalk. They become wary under close scrutiny, and especially if a camera is involved, and begin to shuffle sideways toward cover, keeping close eye on the observer with a series of suspicious glances. If they decide to fly, they will give a loud call as an alert that sounds like a mixture of a blood curdling shriek and a duck quacking.

Green Heron 2

Green Heron 3

PBCWUD   This site is run with the approval and support of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department.
All contents Copyright © 2006 Andrew Gobien unless noted otherwise