Green Heron

In 2018, I spent the summer observing two Green Heron nests on our property in Sealevel, NC.
To document what I'd seen, I put some of my photographs and my comments in a YouTube video

Of the two nests, the first and earliest one was the most successful. Five Green Herons lived to disperse, although the immature birds kept coming back to the nest site or surrounding area in the evenings to roost.

The second nest was later in the season and out of four eggs, one didn't hatch. One of the chicks died during a tropical storm that swept through the area, leaving two Green Herons to survive. Those two fledged successfully and dispersed late in the season (late August).

I was never able to determine if the two nests belonged to one pair of adults who successfully raised one brood early and later attempted another brood or if it was one pair and then a second pair that arrived or simply nested later. I never saw more than two adults in the area at the same time, leaving me unsure.

Most species accounts indicate that Green Herons only have one nest per season and make no attempt to have a second nest, but from what I observed, I still wonder. It seems strange that I only ever saw the two adults in the area--I would have expected to see at least one more and possibly two if there were actually two pairs nesting in our small area.

I found the juvenile behavior particularly interesting. The siblings seemed to want to stay together as follows.

First Nest: 5 siblings. Two were smaller and very shy and left to forage on their own much earlier than the other three. The bigger three stayed together at the nest site even after the adults stopped coming. They foraged in the boat basin for quite a long time after they were able to fly. One by one, they did fly off during the day to forage, but often returned together in the evening to roost.

Second Nest: Only 2 survived to fledge. Those two really stayed together and they stayed at the boat basin for quite a long time--at least a month--after they appeared able to fly. In late August they began to fly to nearby areas to forage but continued to remain together. Like the first nest siblings, they often returned in the evening to roost.

In both cases, the siblings seemed to want to stay in contact with each other and would forage together and return to the nest site to roost together in the evening. They continued this behavior until migration in October.

I searched for more information on Green Heron nesting and juvenile behavior but there is a paucity of information available on actual behavior. What I observed between the siblings was very interesting. The group of three siblings often roosted during the day on a bare, dead tree before they began flying to other areas to forage. They would jockey for position on the snag, trying to be the one perched on the highest limb. I wish I could have banded them to know if the same bird always "won" the top perch or if it was first one and then the other depending upon who got there first.

With the two later siblings, it was interesting to watch them together because they would often take up positions so that one would face one way while the other faced another way as if they were "watching each other's back." They stayed closer to each other than the first bunch did and seemed to prefer roosting lower down on the Virginia Creepers and other vines twisted together closer to the water.

The nest site was in a sweet bay bush that was overhanging an old, disused boat basin on our property. Virginia Creeper vines were twined all through the bush and there were other bushes as well as an oak tree growing around the basin, providing a great deal of cover.

In more recent years, there were some Green Herons hanging around the boat basin this last summer (2022) but we never saw any juvenile or immature herons emerge from the vegetation so the adults may not have made a nest attempt but were just foraging in the area.

No other nesting attempts appear to have been made in that particular area more recently.

Posted by amybirder amybirder, October 14, 2022 05:07 PM


This was such a great post to see! I love all the gorgeous photos but the video is perfect! I have a green heron that visits my local pond and I'm glad to know so much more about it :)

Posted by aureleah_aurita 4 months ago (Flag)

Thank you @aureleah_aurita I appreciate that. It is encouraging to me. I plan (hope) to add more posts with my observations of their behavior. I am not an expert but I found it interesting and there is very little information about actual behavior these days. Seems like it is more about numbers and statistics. If I want bird behavior I always have to go back to Bent's guides on the lives of birds.

Of course my information is just anecdotal but hopefully someone will find it useful.
I also think that someone working on a degree could conduct a very interesting study and write a paper on the success rates of heron nests established early in the season vs late in the season. Especially as there may also be a geographic factor. I am in the south so the failure of later nests may be due to summer heat, etc, that wouldn't necessarily be a factor in more northern climes. Anyway, it's a thought.

Maybe your heron will start a nest at your pond and you can get firsthand experiences of their behavior!

Posted by amybirder 4 months ago (Flag)

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