Juvenile Green Heron ~ Butorides virescens
After reading that green herons nest in a variety of locations, including willow thickets, mangroves, dry woods, and open marsh, I smiled at the list-maker’s omission of ‘marinas.’
Some weeks ago, after noticing white splatters on the concrete around my preferred parking spot at work, I realized birds were roosting or nesting in the trees surrounding the marina. Eventually, I found three relatively small nests in the large oak overhanging my car. Given the nests’ size, and the nature of the squawks coming from birds hidden among the branches, I assumed they belonged to green herons.
Despite scanning the branches every day, it took a while to find the three juvenile herons exploring the world around their nest. Photographing young birds in a leafed-out live oak isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but their appealing expressions made the effort worthwhile.
According to the Audubon website, green heron chicks begin to roam near their nest by 16-17 days after hatching, and make their first flight by 21-23 days, so it won’t be long before these youngsters are testing their wings.
One day, I discovered the birds doing some scanning of their own: no doubt waiting for a parent to bring food. Eventually, one walked down a branch into a bit of a clearing; oblivious to my presence, it continued to watch and wait.
Before long, a parent arrived. Clearly more aware of my presence than the youngsters, it may have been waiting to feed them. Because green herons feed by regurgitation, the absence of a fish in its bill was no surprise.
Adult green heron
The second smallest heron nesting in the United States — only least bitterns are smaller — green herons are among the most widespread of the heron species. The oldest green heron on record, eight years and eleven months of age, was banded in Texas in 2013 and rediscovered here in 2021.
Two trees down from the wandering juveniles, I found this green heron nestling; perhaps in the future it will be the one to break that record.