06/13/2021 by Rebecca 0 Comments
Green Herons, Butorides virescens, have been making quite the appearance on Ayers Creek, especially on a particular tree by our launch site as well as the surrounding rocks beneath it where they can wait for their prey to strike.
Green Herons, Butorides virescens, have been making quite the appearance on Ayers Creek, especially on a particular tree by our launch site as well as the surrounding rocks beneath it where they can wait for their prey to strike. Falling into the same family as herons, egrets, and bitterns, there’s no wonder why they are making a frequent appearance. They are a crow sized bird with a dark greyish-greenish velvet back coloring, slender yellow legs and a reddish chestnut body, as well as a small shaggy crest on its glossy greenish cap. These short, stocky birds often appear as hunchbacks as they often tuck their neck in while perched on hunting, out stretching their neck when striking for their prey. Juveniles are browner in color with a pale streak on its neck as well as spots on its wings. Green Herons range from 16-18 inches tall, weighing roughly 8.5oz, and have a wingspan of 25-27 inches. The oldest green heron was found in Mexico in 1979 and was 7 years 11 months of age.
Found mostly around coastal and inland freshwater wetlands, they can be seen on the edges of marshes in shallow waters such as swamps, lakes, rivers, impoundments, stream sides with thick vegetation margins and particularly our salt marsh and forested areas of Ayers Creek. These little birds like to build their nests neighboring trees surrounding woody ponds, marshes, rivers, reservoirs and estuaries or anywhere water is nearby. Ground nests can be common, or as high up as 30 feet above ground and up to half a mile away from the waters edge. Males will begin the building process of their nest with their female partner, later having her finish the nesting construction. Green herons will build their own nest, or occasionally take over an egret or herons nest that has been abandoned; either taking over it fully or simply borrowing building materials from that nest to take to their nest in construction.
Green Herons will lay 3-5 eggs once or twice yearly, with their eggs having a greenish blueish color. Eggs typically are 1.3-1.7 inches in length, and are incubated for 19-21 days. 16-17 after hatching the young chicks will climb around their nesting site and wait 21-23 days after hatching before making their first flight. Pairs will stay with one mate, nesting solitarily and joining colonies occasionally and defending breeding areas together as a team. When alarmed or startled they may raise the crest on their head and jerk their tail while exclaiming a piercing “skew” call.
Eating primarily insects and small fish their diet may also consist of spiders, crustaceans, rodents, snails, and small fish such as minnows, gobies, perch, and sunfish. They hunt at all times of both day and night wading in the water and waiting for their prey to come by before piercing it with their bill.
The most notable characteristic of these birds would strongly be their hunting abilities, often using small insects, fish, earthworms, twigs, feathers or even bread crusts as a lure to draw in their prey, having the bait lure do the majority of the work enticing the prey to come to the surface close enough to strike. Watching these birds crouch and stalk the water for their prey is quite a site to observe. We hope to have you pay us and our lovely green herons a visit sometime here on the water at Ayers Creek Adventures.
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