The Elusive Mr Green

Mike Oxley

Cornwall Ontario, Canada

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Cooper Marsh, Lancaster, Ontario, Canada
July 9, 2011
Green Heron Butorides virescens

There are quite a few Green Herons at Cooper Marsh and they seem to be little reclusive. I’ve spent some time wandering about and, when I’ve seen one, it always seems to be off in the distance. This was the first one, spotted a couple of weeks ago, quite far out into The Marsh.

The other day I was walking along the path to the boardwalk and one flew up from right beside me and landed a distance away. I was able to get a couple of shots, but, as you can see, still a little too far off for much detail.

Then today there was a repeat performance, but still not a terribly satisfying shot.

As I was walking along the boardwalk, one shot up from the water, right beside me. “My heavens!”, I said. It flew on a bit and landed on the handrail. I tried to sneak up on it, but it was not going to cooperate and headed for the horizon. “Darn”, I said. Then I spotted one on a tree a bit further out, so I quickly walked over to where I could get a better shot. And, of course, it took off again. “”Oh, dear!”, I said. But, to my amazement, it flew in a fair bit closer and landed in a dead tree close by. Relatively speaking.

With thanks to

The Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds. It commonly drops bait onto the surface of the water and grabs the small fish that are attracted. It uses a variety of baits and lures, including crusts of bread, insects, earthworms, twigs, or feathers.

The Green Heron is part of a complex of small herons that sometimes are considered one species. When lumped, they are called Green-backed Heron. When split, they are the Green Heron, the widespread Striated Heron, and the Galapagos Heron.

As is typical for many herons, the Green Heron tends to wander after the breeding season is over. Most wanderers probably seek more favorable foraging areas and do not travel far, but occasionally some travel greater distances, with individuals turning up as far as England and France.


Breeds in swampy thickets. Forages in swamps, along creeks and streams, in marshes, ponds, lake edges, and pastures.
Winters mostly in coastal areas, especially mangrove swamps.


Small fish, invertebrates, insects, frogs, and other small animals.


Stands still next to water and grabs small fish with explosive dart of head and neck. One of the few birds that uses bait to attract fish, it drops such things as bread crusts, insects, and twigs onto the water.

Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 170 to 500 at 500 mm
iso 400, spot metered, F13.0, 1/640 second

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