At a Glance

Along quiet streams or shaded riverbanks, a lone Green Heron may flush ahead of the observer, crying 'kyow' as it flies up the creek. This small heron is solitary at most seasons and often somewhat secretive, living around small bodies of water or densely vegetated areas. Seen in the open, it often flicks its tail nervously, raises and lowers its crest. The 'green' on this bird's back is an iridescent color, and often looks dull bluish or simply dark.
Herons, Egrets, Bitterns, Long-legged Waders
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Forests and Woodlands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Withdraws in winter from all except southern tier of United States. Northern birds known to migrate as far as Panama, northern South America. Permanent resident in Central America, West Indies. Closely related species common in tropical areas around the world.


16-22" (41-56 cm). A small, dark heron, with orange-yellow legs. Chestnut neck, black crown feathers often raised in a bushy crest, dark back glossed with green or blue. Young bird duller and browner, with striped neck.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Brown, Gray, Green, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Fingered, Rounded
Tail Shape
Short, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Call is a sharp kyowk! or skyow!
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Simple
Call Type
Odd, Raucous


Lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, streamsides. May be found foraging in practically any aquatic habitat, but most common around small bodies of fresh water, especially those lined with trees, shrubs, tall marsh vegetation. Nests in a wide variety of situations, including willow thickets, mangroves, dry woods, open marsh.



3-5, sometimes 2-7. Pale green or blue-green. Incubation is by both sexes, 19-21 days.


Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young begin to climb about near nest by 16-17 days after hatching, usually make first flight at 21-23 days, but are fed by parents for a few more weeks. Young are reportedly capable of swimming well. 1 or 2 broods per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by standing still or stalking very slowly at edge of shallow water, waiting for prey to approach. Sometimes uses "bait," dropping feather or small twig on surface of water to lure fish within striking distance.


Mostly fish. Eats small fish such as minnows, sunfishes, gizzard shad; also crayfish and other crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, tadpoles. Other items include grasshoppers, snakes, earthworms, snails, small rodents.


May nest as isolated pairs or in small groups, rarely in large colonies. Male chooses nesting territory and calls repeatedly from prominent perch in tree or shrub. Displays of male include stretching neck forward and down and snapping bill shut, pointing bill straight upward while swaying back and forth. Male and female may perform display flights around territory. Nest: Site is usually in shrub or tree 5-30' above ground, but sometimes on ground; often very close to water but can be quite distant. Nest is a platform of sticks; male begins construction, then female builds while male brings materials.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Apparently stable. May be expanding its range northward in parts of the northwest.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Green Heron. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Green Heron

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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