Green Heron

So this was an unexpected find when I started doing early morning birding walks at Boomer Lake.

Before the pandemic, I use to try to make it up to the lake shortly before (or right as, and sometimes shortly after) the sun was coming up-as I knew this was the best time to catch the glimpse of certain birds as they awoke and headed to their first fishing spots of the day (at least for the larger wading birds, ducks, and geese).

So imagine my surprise, when one morning I noticed a couple of stocky looking herons flying up into a tree.

First picture attempt of the Green Herons

So this was my first picture of the green herons–2/3 body and legs of one of the adults.

It became my goal for the summer–to get at least one good picture of a green heron. I managed to get several pictures last summer; and that was one of the things I missed doing this past summer due to the pandemic–walking at Boomer Lake early in the morning to try to catch a glimpse of certain herons. Well, there is always next summer.

In good light the green heron lives up to its name–they have a rich dark green color on their back, offset by chestnut brown on their breast and neck. The wings are a nice dark gray color.

Green heron sitting on drift wood at dawn up at Boomer Lake

The young (before they molt into their adult colors) are browner with streaks and pale spots on their wings.

Green Heron flying in the mist at Boomer Lake.

In terms of habitat–they can be found basically in any location herons or egrets like to inhabit–as long as there are trees and shrubs close by to provide shelter for their nests and roosting spots for the birds during the day.

Green Heron migration/location map. Map (c) birds of the world.

Therefore these herons can be found around swamps, marshes, lakes, ponds, and other wet habitats (with a good amount of trees and shrubs). Therefore it isn’t a surprise that they aren’t that common in the more mountainous/dry states such as Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and parts of other states; they are also uncommon in Alaska, and majority of Canada.

They do migrate and spend the winters in more coastal areas, and if they migrate to the tropics they can commonly be found in mangrove swamps.

Like many other herons their diet consists mainly of small fish (such as minnows, sunfish, and goldfish for example). But they will also eat insects, spiders, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles and occasionally rodents.

They tend to forage and hunt in shallow waters (as they’re short legged), but when they hunt in deeper water it is by plunging on their prey from above.

Green Heron patiently hunting at Boomer Lake

If they dive in after their prey, they are able to swim back to shore with the help of their slightly webbed feet (there are webs between the middle and outer toes).

Green herons are one of the few bird species that have been known to use ‘tools’. They have been seen creating fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers–dropping them onto the surface of the water to entice smaller fish to the surface.

A photography goal is to get a picture of a green heron either plunging in after a meal and swimming back to shore, or possibly dropping homemade lures into the water. Also would like to get a picture of a young green heron as well.