Green and Tricolor Herons

Green Heron

The green heron (Butorides virescens) is a small, stocky wading bird that inhabits ponds, swamps, wetlands, and low lying fields.  Green herons are about the size of a crow with a green-black head and back from which they get their name.

The green heron is a solitary bird that feeds in the early morning, late evening, or during the night, and is considered somewhat nocturnal.  It will stand still in the water, shoreline, or perch in a tree and wait for its prey to swim by.  Green herons feed on small fish, frogs, aquatic insects, leeches, crayfish, and mice.  This heron is unusual in that it will drop bits of food, feathers, or sticks in the water to lure prey.  This makes the green heron one of the few animals that uses tools for fishing, contributing to the belief that they are intelligent birds.  The green heron range extends from Texas into Canada, migrating to warmer coastal areas in the winter.  This solitary bird breeds in the early spring, and will pair up with a mate to build the nest, incubate the clutch of three to six eggs, and rear the young.  After the young have left the nest, these solitary birds will go their own way.  These small, solitary, mostly nocturnal birds are not easy to spot in the wild; their presence is easier to confirm by their loud squawking call when being approached.

Credit: Jan Barrow, Myersville MD

Tricolor Heron

The tricolor heron (Egretta tricolor) is a part-time Maryland resident that generally nests in the Gulf States and the lower Atlantic.  This heron is a mid-sized, slender bird, with a dark blue back, a white breast, and a rust colored neck.  The tricolor heron breeds in colonies, and can often be found in conjunction with the little blue heron and snowy egret, feeding mainly on larger fish, often traveling to find its favorite dishes.  


Their habit of eating larger game and their more specialized diet helps this bird to survive in conjunction with the little blue heron and snowy egret which are more successful at finding food.  Both the male and female tricolor heron build the nest and incubate the eggs.  When startled, they will stand rigid and point their bills towards the sky.  This defense mechanism might make the bird look like a patch of grass or reeds in their swampy environment.

See more nature notes and images about Herons on the boards website.

Article by FCFCDB

Page header photo credit: Jan Barrow, Myersville MD

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