The Clever Way Green Herons Lure Prey

Watch carefully the next time you spot this secretive wader hunting.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote!

The heron you’re most likely to see in North America is the tall Great Blue Heron. But this stately bird has a much smaller and more secretive relative — the Green Heron. 

This chunky, short-legged heron is about a foot and a half long, maybe about a third of the size of its larger cousin. And it’s a deep forest-green color, with a chestnut-colored neck.

The Green Heron forages for fish and small amphibians on the banks of small bodies of fresh water, using its plumage to camouflage itself amid the trees and shrubs. It perches, body horizontal and stretched forward over the water, still as a statue, waiting for small fish to come close. 

Now, here’s the really cool part. This heron sometimes uses “bait” to lure its prey. It will break twigs into pieces small enough to make convincing lures and then cleverly drop them onto the water’s surface. Sometimes, instead of a stick, the heron will use a feather or even a live insect. Then the bird hunkers down and waits for an unsuspecting fish to swim close.

The Great Blue Heron may be easier to see, but be sure to keep an eye out for the small — and clever — Green Heron.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.



Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Written by Frances Wood

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Ambient [107437] recorded by W.L. Hershberger.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   September 2013 / 2015 / 2019

ID# 091107GRHEKPLU       GRHE-01c