Bird of the Week: Green Heron

    12:29 PM, Jun 20, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- It's Thursday, and that means it's time for a new Bird of the Week on "THV 11 News at Noon".

    This week we are spotlighting the Green Heron.

    The Green Heron is a relatively small, dark wading bird with long yellow legs, long neck, and long, dark, pointed bill. It is common during the breeding season in many wetland areas across eastern North America, including all of Arkansas.

    This species is very well camouflaged, and can be difficult to see as they sit motionless alongside a water body, but their loud squawking often announces their location. They hunt during any time of day or night in shallow water, slowly stalking their prey. They feed primarily on small fish, frogs, aquatic insects, and other small animals. This is one of very few bird species that actually uses tools.

    Green Herons will drop bait, such as bread crusts, twigs, feathers, or insects onto the top of the water, and when a fish comes near the surface to investigate, the heron quickly strikes the prey. They usually grasp their prey open-mouthed, but they may spear prey on occasion.

    They are not very tolerant of human disturbance, so most often will fly away if a person tries to approach them too closely, giving a scolding squawk as they leave. Their call is a loud, assertive skeow, and is one that most people are probably familiar with if they have spent much time in Green Heron habitat.

    Green Herons are generally solitary nesters, but may nest in loose colonies in some areas. Both the male and female build the nest, which is a small basket made up of sticks, placed in a small tree or shrub, most often over water, though not always. They lay 2 - 6 pale green eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. When they hatch, the chicks are semialtricial, with limited movement, but eyes open. Both parents care for the young by regurgitating food directly into the chicks' mouths, and gradually moving to more solid food as they grow.

    The Green Heron is a fascinating bird to observe, which can be done easily from a comfortable distance. Some great places to observe a Green Heron in Arkansas might be anyplace with water and fish! Try checking at a Wildlife Management Area near you, or a nearby community pond.

    These birds are abundant, and binoculars are not required to get a good look!

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