Lifestyles

Green heron is B.C.’s smallest

The reclusive green heron is two-thirds smaller than the great blue. - Photo by Charles Brandt
The reclusive green heron is two-thirds smaller than the great blue.
— image credit: Photo by Charles Brandt

Seeing the elusive green heron in its natural habitat is a birdwatchers’ dream.

Most British Columbians are unaware that the crow-sized species (Butorides virescens) even exists within the province.

No other bird looks quite like “l’heron vert.”

A riot of colours, this wading bird features short yellow legs, chestnut-brown neck and dark green back. A striking crested crown in iridescent blue-green, and stout yellow and black bill complete the feathered package.

Compared to the Pacific Northwest’s largest heron – the great blue, at 117 cm (46 in.) – the little green heron is nearly two-thirds smaller, at 43 cm (17-in.).

Campbell River and the Comox Valley are toward the northern limit of the species’ range, and it’s been seen year-round at Campbell River’s Nunn’s Creek Park.

This very brainy bird is famous for its ability to use bait to attract fish: it is known to drop bread crumbs into the water to capture fish that rise to the bait, or to use a feather as a fishing lure.

With canny ability, it will also bait fish by dropping insects on the water, or utilize one foot to disturb the water’s surface to attract prey.

In typical heron fashion, the opportunistic predator spends much time sitting and waiting at the edge of water for prey to swim within easy reach.

Happily, the range of this species has been slowly expanding on the West Coast. Prior to the 1920s, the intriguing heron occurred along the Pacific Coast only as far north as northern California. In 1963, the first green heron was recorded on Vancouver Island.

It’s now listed as rare in B.C.’s Breeding Bird Atlas.

Seek this little heron near rivers, at Courtenay’s Airpark Walkway or from the Monte Cristo restaurant deck in Courtenay.

 

Email Christine: wildernesswest@shaw.ca.

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