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Green herons gather

This immature green heron, most likely the adult’s offspring, perched nearby.

July 7, 2011

While one often encounters the majestic great blue heron along the banks of the Delaware River, the smaller and stockier, but quite beautiful, green heron is showing up with greater frequency in the region. Green herons present at this time of year are considered to be breeding residents.

The green heron’s darker feathers and long pointed bill allow it to blend in well with foliage along the water’s edge, where it wades in the shallows, then stands motionless waiting for small fish to move within striking range. Another visual characteristic is the bird’s long yellow legs. The bird ranges in length from 16 to 18 inches and weighs 8.5 ounces on average.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, green herons are one of the few tool-using birds. Utilizing breadcrusts, insects, earthworms, twigs and feathers, the green heron drops the bait onto the surface of the water and snares the hapless fish drawn to the lures. In addition to fish, it also consumes insects, frogs and other small animals. Its nest is a small basket of sticks built in a small tree or shrub near water, where it lays between two to six pale green eggs.

Locally, the green heron is not only a bird, but an interesting poetry project sponsored by the Upper Delaware Writers Collective. Learn more about it at poetsonline.blogspot.com/2011/03/green-heron-poetry-project.html.

Hear a sound sample of the green heron’s voice at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/green_heron/id.