Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bird to look for # 7: Green Heron

(this post resumes a series I began from January to March this year; the first six installments covered Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant/Anhinga, the three white egrets, Great Blue Heron, and Tricolored/Little Blue Herons)

Today as I was sitting at the traffic light on Jefferson Highway at the base of the Huey Long bridge, a small dark heron- crow sized- came awkwardly flapping and gliding low over the road, banked and wheeled a few times, and plopped down into the stand of cattails that has come up between the two lanes of Clearview Parkway, beneath the shadow of the railroad bridge.  Green Heron.

Although generally solitary, Green Herons are common and widespread summer residents in southeast Louisiana, and a few hang around for the winter.  They are easily distinguished by their small size- similar to a crow.  The only other small member of the heron clan on the continent is Least Bittern, which is virtually never seen away from relatively pristine expansive marsh habitats- and thus is essentially unknown inside our hurricane protection levee.  Green Herons are much more tolerant of human development, as illustrated by the sighting above, and are also much less secretive.  You are likely to find one working the bayou edge at Couturie Forest in City Park, along the edge of the lagoon in Audubon Park, or stalking a marshy edge in a batture pond.  They are also in more "natural" habitats outside the city, tending toward fresh rather than salt water.

Green Herons are an example of a bird named for one of its less striking features, its blue-green body.  It's chestnut neck, with white trim along the ventral edge, is much more memorable, as is its shaggy (when erected) black crest.  The bird is rather squat compared to most other herons, sporting a heavy neck.  They are rather vocal, often crying skeow when flushed- sometimes the first clue to their presence.


Green Heron at Bonnet Carre Spillway
photo:  Beth Wiggins

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