Beak of the Week – Green Heron

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Family: Ardeidae

What do you mean, I’m short?

The Green Heron – our Beak of the Week – is one of the smallest resident members of the heron family in the Houston area. Full-size Green Herons are approximately 18 inches (45 cm) from beak to tail, which means they are comparable in size to the familiar American Crow. Additionally, Green Herons often hold their necks tucked in, which gives them a crouched appearance and makes them appear even shorter at first glance.

Green Herons have dark greenish-gray bodies and deep reddish-brown necks and faces, with dark greenish feather tufts on top of their heads. Adult birds have bright yellow legs, which turn more strikingly orange during the summer breeding season. Young Green Herons are generally lighter colored than adults, and they can be easily identified by the whitish streaking on the front side of their necks.

Green Herons can be found in forested wetlands and marshy areas with dense vegetation. They are usually solitary; though young birds often follow their parents for a few weeks after they fledge from their nests. When feeding, Green Herons will perch rather horizontally above the water, ready to strike at fish that swim within reach. While fish are their primary prey, they will feed on crayfish, frogs, snakes, and insects as well.

By Aidan Healey, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
Photos by Greg Lavaty

Learn about other Texas birds in our Bird Gallery!

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