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Juvenile Green Herons Becoming Independent

8-4-15 juv. green heron IMG_5807Green herons are typically solitary and secretive birds, but if you find one, you often have an extended period of time to observe it, as they often slowly stalk their prey, or pose statue-like, sometimes for minutes at a time, while waiting to strike at a fish, frog or invertebrate. Three characteristics tell you that the green heron in this photograph is a juvenile: the few tufts of down that remain on its head, its streaked neck (adults have solid rufous necks) and its yellow legs (adults have orange legs).

After fledging when about three weeks old, they can soon fly. The juvenile fledglings continue to be fed by the adults for a period of time and are taught how to forage for fish. Green herons are one of very few bird species that are known to occasionally use a tool (insects, earthworms, twigs, feathers) to catch their food – they simply drop the lure and wait for small fish to appear. (A wonderful video of a green heron successfully using bread for this purpose can be seen at

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7 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    I saw one just yesterday, with its streaked throat. Spot on.

    August 14, 2015 at 9:41 am

  2. Phebe Whitworth

    I have a question. I grew up on the shore and watched the seagulls ‘fish’ and drop clams and mussels on the rocks to crack them open. In those days you only saw sea gulls on the salt water. Now seagulls are everywhere inland, especially around land fills. Would those gulls who have lived around land fills for many generations know how to ‘fish’ and crack shells etc. if they had to suddenly live in that environment again? I’ve often wondered that!

    August 14, 2015 at 11:51 am

    • Excellent question. My understanding is that that is a learned behavior, so if there is no need to drop food in order in order to eat it, my guess is that after a few generations this behavior would disappear, but I certainly am not an expert. Others more knowledgeable than I, please comment!

      August 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

  3. Kathryn

    Great video! Isn’t he smart? He wasn’t going for the little fish, he waited for a big one!

    August 14, 2015 at 2:58 pm

  4. Lou

    Way cool video and interesting query on the seagulls, very curious myself. So many things that I was taught that turn out to not be true.

    August 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm

  5. Is there a mailing address so that I might send a contribution by check rather than by credit card? Thank you.

    August 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    • Hi Penny,
      Thank you so much. My mailing address is 134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT 05089. Your support is greatly appreciated!

      August 14, 2015 at 8:07 pm

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