Audubon Centennial Edition  The Birds of America

Plate: 346
Black-throated Diver
Plate: 421
Brown Pelican
Plate: 397
Scarlet Ibis
Plate: 217
Louisiana Heron
Plate: 256
Purple Heron
Plate: 387
Glossy Ibis
Green Heron
Havell Name   Havell Plate No.   Paper Size
Green Heron 333 28" x 39"
Common Name Price Image Size
Green Heron $ 1,600 20" x 23"


Ornithological Biography
This species is more generally known than any of our Herons, it being very extensively dispersed in spring, summer, and early autumn. It ranges along our many rivers to great distances from the sea, being common on the Missouri and its branches, from which it spreads to all such localities as are favourable to its habits. To the north of the United States, however, it is very seldom seen, it being of rare occurrence even in Nova Scotia. At the approach of winter it retires to the Floridas and Lower Louisiana, where individuals, however, reside all the year, and many remove southward beyond the limits of our country. I have observed their return in early spring, when arriving in fl ocks of from twenty to fi fty individuals. They would plunge downwards from their elevated line of march, cutting various zigzags, until they would all simultaneously alight on the tops of the trees or bushes of some swampy place, or on the borders of miry ponds. These halts took place pretty regularly about an hour after sunrise. The day was occupied by them, as well as by some other species, especially the Blue, the Yellow-crowned, and Night Herons, all of which at this period travelled eastward, in resting, cleansing their bodies, and searching for food. When the sun approached the western horizon, they would at once ascend in the air, arrange their lines, and commence their fl ight, which, I have no doubt, continued all night. You may therefore, good reader, conclude that Herons are not only diurnal birds when feeding, but also able to travel at night when the powerful impulse of migration urges them from one portion of the country to another. But although on their northward journey, the Green Herons travel in fl ocks, it is a curious fact, that, unlike our smaller Waders, Ducks, Geese, and Cranes, they usually return southward at the approach of winter singly or in very small fl ocks.

Stagnant pools or bayous, and the margins of the most limpid streams, are alike resorted to by this species for the purpose of procuring food. It is little alarmed by the presence of man, and you may often see it close to houses on the mill-dams, or even raising its brood on the trees of gardens. This is often the case in the suburbs of Charleston in South Carolina, where I have seen several nests on the same live oak in the grounds of the Honourable JOEL R. POINSETT, as well as in those of other cities of the Southern States. The gentleness, or as many would say, the stupidity of this bird is truly remarkable, for it will at times allow you to approach within a few paces, looking as unconcernedly upon you as the House Sparrow is wont to do in the streets of London.

Although they not unfrequently breed in single pairs, they also associate, not only forming communities of their own kind, but mingling with the larger species of their tribe, and with the Boat-tailed Grakles, and other birds. On the 23d May, 1831, I found two nests of the Green Heron on one of the Florida Keys, close to some of Ardea rufescens and A. coerulea. Now and then a dozen or more of their nests are found Green Heron
Plate 333. The following text is a direct excerpt from the description of the bird as written by Audubon and included with each subscription to the original Havell Edition to Audubon’s “The Birds of America” Only the last portion of the text which describes the biological details of the bird have been omitted for the purpose of brevity on a bunch of vines in the middle of a pond, and placed within two or three feet of the water; while in other cases, they place their tenements on the highest branches of tall cypresses. In our Middle Districts, however, and especially at some distance from the seal it is very seldom that more than a single nest is seen in one locality.

The nest of the Green Heron, like that of almost every other species of the tribe, is fl at and composed of sticks, loosely arranged, among which are sometimes green twigs with their leaves still attached. The eggs are three or four, seldom more, an inch and three-eighths in length, an inch and one-eighth in breadth, nearly equally rounded at both ends, and of a delicate sea-green colour. According to the locality, they are deposited from the middle of March to the beginning of June. In the Southern States, two broods are frequently reared, but in the Middle and Northern Districts, seldom more than one.

The young, which are at fi rst of a deep livid colour, sparingly covered here and there, and more especially about the head, with longish tufts of soft hair-like down, of a brownish colour, remain in the nest until nearly able to fl y; but if disturbed, at once leave their couch, and scramble along the branches, clinging to them with their feet, so as not to be easily drawn off.

After the spring migration is over, the fl ight of this species is rather feeble, and when they are passing from one spot to another, they frequently use a stronger fl ap of their wings at intervals. On such occasions, they scarcely contract their neck; but when travelling to a considerable distance, they draw it in like all other species of the tribe, and advance with regular and fi rm movements of their wings. When alighting to rest, they come down with such force, that their passage causes a rustling sound like that produced by birds of prey when pouncing on their quarry, and on perching they stretch up their neck and jerk their tail repeatedly for some time, as they are also wont to do on any other occasion when alarmed.

The Green Herons feed all day long, but, as I think, rarely at night. Their food consists of frogs, fi shes, snails, tadpoles, water-lizards, crabs, and small quadrupeds, all of which they procure without much exertion, they being abundant in the places to which they usually resort. Their gait is light, but fi rm. During the love-season they exhibit many curious gestures, erecting all the feathers of their neck, swelling their throat, and uttering a rough guttural note like qua, qua, several times repeated by the male as he struts before the female. This note is also usually emitted when they are started, but when fairly on wing they proceed in silence. The fl esh of this species affords tolerable eating, and Green Herons are not unfrequently seen in the markets of our southern cities, especially of New Orleans.

The young attain their full beauty in the second spring, but continue to grow for at least another year. The changes which they exhibit, although by no means so remarkable as those of Ardea rufescens and A. coerulea, have proved suffi cient to cause mistakes among authors who had nothing but skins on which to found their decisions. I have given fi gures of an adult in full plumage, and of an immature bird, to enable you to judge how carefully Nature ought to be studied to enable you to keep free of mistakes.


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