Saturday, January 17, 2015

Green Heron is ABA Bird of the Year!

To celebrate the American Birding Association' s selection of the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) as ABA Bird of the Year, I have updated my post of January 5, 2013, "Shape-shifting Green Heron." Sad to say, the repeated herbicide treatment of the nest trees in the local rookery may now make it unlikely that any herons will successfully nest this year. The post is documented with brief video clips which show interesting behaviors of this species in the first two weeks after hatching. Most remarkable is the protective instinct of the male parent when the nestlings are in danger of falling.

Green Heron Close 20081017

Green Heron 20140718

Green Heron juvenile 20130602

The first herbicide treatment occurred some time before the 2012 breeding season. This photo, taken on March 4, 2012 shows Yellow-crowned Night-Herons on nests exposed by the defoliation:

Heron rookery herbicide effects 20120304

During the following year the shrubs, mostly Ligustrum and exotic Brazilian Pepper, had recovered somewhat  The rookery, which I have been monitoring since the spring of 2011, contained at least 8 nests of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and 3 Green Heron nests, mostly over the water and still fairly well-concealed, when this photo was taken on March 15, 2013:

196th Av Canal HDR 20130315

This photo, on December 14, 2014, shows the devastating effects of a subsequent herbicide application, along with floating debris from nearby road construction:

Heron Rookery north end 196 Canal 20141214

Most of the branches which extended over the water were defoliated and killed, as shown in this photo taken on January 15, 2015. Homes that were formerly hidden by the nest trees are now in plain view.

Heron Rookery herbicide damage 20150115

During the spring of 2012, 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 had fallen off to expose the nest. 

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 50 feet (15 meters) across the canal 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 thick:

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. Well, they are absolutely incredible pictures of the green Heron! But sorry about the destruction of the habitat.

  2. such beautiful yet quirky birds. love them! gorgeous shots! sorry about their nesting habitat being destroyed!

    (i hope you don't mind - i 'stole' the close-up shot of the heron's head to put in my drawing inspiration folder. i marked it with your name so if i ever draw from it, i'll point folks back here!)

  3. Awesome post on the Green Heron.. It has always been one of my favorite herons.. Great photos and videos.. Happy weekend!

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes! I get so angry about the senseless use of herbicides and pesticides that endanger our wildlife (and US) so much! These are beautiful birds! I loved your photos and your videos, and am just sick there won't be any nestling this year. Too too sad!

  5. It's a very handsome bird. Your photos are awesome.

  6. Well done!!! Well done. I had read last week sometime that ABA had chosen the Green Heron. One of my favorites.

    Your narration here this week is phenomenal. Sad to read about the devastation tho. Hopefully in time it will return to normal. Loved watching the 'care taking' and raising of the chicks in the nest.

    Thanks for sharing your post today with us avid birders at I'd Rather B Birdin'!!!

  7. It took me forever to realize that this wasn't two different birds. You were one of my virtual guides, even before this post and I'm grateful . So terribly sorry about the herbicide devastation. When will they ever learn?

  8. Beautiful birds! Your photos are wonderful!
    So sad that they are losing their habitat

  9. Theses images are outstanding and I love the videos of the parents feeding the chicks. The last clip is amazing.

  10. and, the colours! the colours are amazing........ I hope some of them do alright in spite of humans....

  11. Such great movies of the young nestlings, they really seem to be bottomless pits, it must be hard for the parents to keep up with them. They climb the branch amazingly well! I hope they get some protection from the pesticides.

  12. Stunning, wonderful image captures, congratulations for so many perfect shares!

  13. Such interesting birds. Your photos and videos are spectacular. It's such a shame to see how exposed the nests are to predators.

  14. They are gorgeous Kenneth, the more you take are superb.

  15. Hi, I hopped to you from Theresa, and your videos, how kind and then cruel nature can be, the wee chicks, they know where the food is, and then Dad to what they thought was a rescue and a feed!! Your other photos, truly outstanding, with words for every one, Thank you from way down under for sharing these magnificent birds you have in your part of our world..

  16. Really beautiful are these pictures of the green heron. I come here via Theresa (TexWisGirl) and I of this heron. In the Netherlands we only know the egret and blue heron. However, the green heron is much nicer to look at.

    Greetings, Helma

  17. These are fantastic photos of the Green Heron, a bird I love. The videos are fascinating, I was surprised about their excellent parenting! Thank you for sharing these treasures, I thoroughly enjoyed them. I am really sorry about the destruction of their habitat.


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