Green Heron

Butorides virescens
A Green Heron specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Smaller and thinner than the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), the Green Heron (18 inches) is named for its back and wings, which are a dull greenish color in good light but may appear much darker when this heron is hidden well in vegetation. The Green Heron may also be identified by its dark brown neck, white throat, black bill, and black crest. Males and females are similar to one another in all seasons. The Green Heron is found widely across North and South America. In North America, this species breeds across the eastern United States and southern Canada, as well as on the Pacific coast of the U.S. In winter, Green Herons withdraw from the interior and from northern parts of their breeding range, and may be found along the coasts south from California and South Carolina as well as in Mexico and Central America. Coastal populations in the southern U.S. are non-migratory, as are most populations in the tropics. Green Herons breed in a variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and saltwater, with tall vegetation for cover. In winter, Green Herons utilize similar types of habitats as in summer. Green Herons breeding or wintering in tropical environments also inhabit mangrove habitats. This species primarily eats small fish and amphibians. Due to the Green Heron’s small size and shy nature, individuals standing still in tall vegetation are often difficult to observe. Green Herons are easier to see while walking along the edge of the water, plunging their bills into the water to catch prey, or when flying away from the observer upon being spooked. This species is primarily active during the day, but may also hunt at night to avoid being spotted by its prey.

DC Information

Common permanent resident, most abundant in early April to late October. Nests in brushy tidewater areas and along streams and rivers from mid-April to mid-August. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC58483 Butorides virescens (Green Heron)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31163 Butorides virescens (Green Heron)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53191 Butorides virescens (Green Heron)