Green Heron

Butorides virescens




Bitterns, Herons and Egrets (Ardeidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale green or blue green.

Number of Eggs:

2 - 7

Incubation Days:

19 - 21

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

In trees or shrubs, 5 to 30 feet above ground.

Nest Material:

Sticks and twigs.


Some migrate



Green Heron: Small heron with gray-green upperparts. Head, neck and upper breast are chestnut-brown and belly is paler brown. Head has green-black cap with small crest and yellow eyes. Throat is white and neck has white central stripe. Bill is two-toned with dark upper mandible and yellow lower mandible. During the breeding season bill is black. Legs are yellow. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is brown, has heavy streaks on the neck and the upperwings are spotted white and buff; white streaks on underparts. Habitually squawks and defecates on take-off when startled.

Range and Habitat

Green Heron: Breeds across most of the U.S., with the exception of eastern Washington to the Dakotas south to northern Utah and Colorado; spends winters along the West Coast and in the southern U.S. south to Venezuela, Panama, and the West Indies. Preferred habitats include shoreline habitats along rivers, oceans, lakes, and ponds.

Breeding and Nesting

Green Heron: These herons are seasonally monogamous. Two to seven pale green or blue green eggs are laid in a flat nest made of sticks and leaves, usually built in a tree near water 5 to 30 feet above the ground. Incubation ranges from 19 to 21 days and is carried out by both parents. Fledging occurs when chicks are 16 to 17 days old, and independence is gained at 30 to 35 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Green Heron: These herons are carnivorous with a varied diet and are opportunistic foragers. Their diet includes frogs, fish, snails, tadpoles, crayfish, crabs, crickets, dragonflies, water bugs, small snakes and mice. They stand motionless with their head cocked and neck extended waiting for prey. Sometimes they dive into the water to catch fish with their heavy bill.


Green Heron: Song is a sharp, croaking "qua qua"; utters a piercing shriek when disturbed.

Similar Species

Green Heron: Least and American Bitterns are lighter and browner overall, with lighter bill and eyes.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Upper mandibleX
The upper part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X