Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Green Heron....2015 Bird of the Year

I got my latest issue of Birding magazine in the mail earlier this week, the colourful and informative publication every member of the American Birding Association receives several times a year. Over the last few years, ABA has identified a particular species as the Bird of the Year.

For 2015, it is the Green Heron!

The Green Heron is one of my favourite species. It isn't large and showy like other members of the heron group is. In fact it is about the smallest of the ones here in North America. I find them very furtive, with such an intense, piercing look to its face. They seem almost neckless, until they dart out after a small fish or frog. I love hearing their distinctive 'call', a fairly quiet and slightly descending throaty 'kowwww', rather than the raucous croaks and kraaks of its much larger relatives. And as common and widespread as they are, they are surprisingly hard to find sometimes, especially when one is doing a big day and that box beside its name on the list sits unchecked at the end of the day. Yet at other times, they just pop into view and seem quite tolerant of people.

From a distance, depending on the light, they may look almost totally dark. But when seen up close, they are surprisingly colourful. The yellow on the facial area, the chestnut brown upper body, the dark green rest of the upper body, and the light and striped or fairly solid chestnut, depending on age, underside are an attractive combination.

Many heron species nest in colonies, but Green Herons seldom do, and even then they would be very few in number. They nest in a variety of situations, but almost always quite close to water. They prefer shrubbery, and have even been known to nest in a cedar hedge close to a cottage! I've found the occasional nest, and was first able to get some photos of them in action back in June of 1976, at Rondeau. This next photo is the result of that experience, as the nest was built at about eye level in a large buttonbush, a common shrub of a high quality wetland.

It is a scanned photo, obviously, and doesn't reflect the true colours and details as well as it might. Also, the nest was in fairly bright, mid-day sunlight so the light conditions were a little harsher than ideal. Lots of direct sunlight during June can be hard on the newly hatched birds, so this adult was standing over the chicks covering them to protect them from the intense sunlight and heat generated from it.

So hats off to the ABA 2015 Bird of the Year!
Green Heron successfully fishing

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