Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shape-shifting Green Heron

Last season, in the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron rookery along a canal at the north end of the wetlands birding patch next to our south Florida home, a pair of Green Herons selected a secluded spot for their nest. 

Unfortunately, this tree, which extends over the water, had been treated with herbicides by the agency that maintains the canals, and by the time the eggs hatched almost all the leaves fell off to expose the nest. Movie time! 

These brief clips illustrate some interesting behaviors and are best viewed in HD, full screen size. Pardon the shakiness, as they are taken with my hand-held DSLR camera with a telescopic lens, from about 30 feet across  from the nest.

The Green Herons are excellent parents. Here a female feeds her tiny chicks, about 3-5 days old. At the time, we only counted three, as the youngest one was not yet visible (April 15, 2012).

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The four chicks have grown quite a bit over the next 3 days. They are now 7-9 days old. Perhaps not unexpectedly in view of the flimsy perches, the smallest chick disappeared the next day, following a heavy thunderstorm (April 19, 2012).

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Now on April 22, the chicks are 10-12 days old. This remarkable sequence shows the protective behavior of the male, who had fed the chicks just moments before I started this video. The female then flew in with more food, but the ravenous appetite of the chicks placed them in danger. The male, sensing their predicament, flew in to solve the problem. See how he did it.

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The Green Heron can be described as a compact little neck-less ball of feathers...

Green Heron 2-20120113

...or a spindle-shaped pointed object.

Green Heron 2-20120124

But where did that neck come from?

Green Heron 4-20120124

Sometimes it looks like almost any other heron, though its legs are short and its neck is a bit fat.

Green Heron 5-20121211  

Then, extending its neck full length, it becomes almost snake-like...

Green Heron 8-20121211 

 ...and raises a handsome crest.  

Green Heron 7-20121211

Their color-- How did they ever get the name of "Green?" Sometimes they look as dark as crows.

Green Heron 20090522

The immature birds have streaked underparts and can be quite dark in color.

Green Heron in flight 20120717

Here is an adult. Why, I do see a bit of green in there!

Green Heron 20100712

Usually a loner, it is unusual to see several in a flock. These are immature birds. perhaps some are siblings.

Green Herons five 20120731

Those wings-- they are surprisingly long and seem to have so many more feathers than expected.

Green Heron taking flight  (view large) 20120410

During breeding season, the male does have respectable plumes.

Green Heron culvert nest male 20120413


  1. Wow, awesome captures of the Green heron. The reflections are stunning. Well done, Ken!

  2. your shots are so beautiful. i enjoyed the little monster babies in the videos, too. :)

  3. I have trouble finding just ONE green heron! And look what you share?!! Awesome. I so love the photos of the ones that are reflected in the waters.

    Thanks for linking up at the Bird D'Pot this weekend. Your contributions are always appreciated.

  4. We've seen these birds in Florida on vacation and even got some shots of them, but I had no idea it was in the Heron family! thanks!

  5. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  6. Just brilliant shots and videos Ken. The obvious question is if those young managed to flege? They weren't too far off at the end - big enough to hide in the vegetation if need be?

  7. What a wonderful, educational post. I feel like I have had a private teacher right here in my living room. Your shots are awesome, Ken, and I do not use that word very ofter. I am just beginning my birding quest at 73, so I have a long, long ways to go. Your male heron is so pretty with all of his blue. I bet the gals are happy to mate with him. All of the children up in the tree is such a special capture. I have loved each and every one of your photos. genie

  8. Hello Ken.
    Very nice photo series showing the different birds. Wish you a good day :) Hanne Bente

  9. Gorgeous photos!
    Have a nice evening!

  10. Spectacular photos of this beautiful bird! The feather colours are fascinating! Amazing where that neck length and crest come from!

  11. This is an amazing series of Green heron pictures! Lovely ...

  12. Those videos of the baby herons are so interesting - much better than trying to describe the behavior in words. (AND with my new faster net connection I can finally watch videos successfully!) Great photos also.

  13. What a wonderful series! Your photos are amazing.

  14. Great set of pictures - I think that there is nothing to choose between your reflection shots - although I think yours is a better looking bird!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. You have a beautiful blog ;-)
    Céline & Philippe (France)

  16. Oh My Goodness they are all amazing, what stunning images of these glorious looking Herons. You got so close to them too...very NICE!

  17. Glorious colours and a great selection of shots. Well done indeed!


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