Green Heron Babies

Green Herons are still pretty common birds even though their numbers are in decline. I have really enjoyed catching glimpses of the juveniles growing strong and healthy at the pond near my house this year.

baby green heron
Juvenile Green Heron

This one hangs out with a small group of grackles. The other morning I veered off from the main path to sit under the shade cast by a huge pecan tree. The grackles were perched in their usual places overhead. What was different was the soft gentle chattering that fell from the leaves sounding quite unlike the brash shouts and songs they usually make. Every so often I could hear a new voice pipe up in response from the water’s edge. This conversation lasted about 10 minutes. Neither the grackles or the heron pictured above seemed anxious with each other or my intrusion. When I did get too close he flew up into the tree to hide with his friends.

Local feral parakeets also associate with grackles. I am not sure what the grackles get out of the deal but there is a clear advantage for the outsiders. Grackles are gregarious and quite vocal (read: never shut up). When they forage the group fans out resulting in many eyes watching many places.

The grackles probably make a great early warning system alerting the heron to danger approaching not only from the sky but also from the pathway that leads to the water’s edge. Kind of like having his own personal security force …

baby green heron 2
If you click on the photo you can see his bright green eye stripe more clearly

Both grackles and green herons are extremely intelligent. I learned today that green herons even use tools. They carefully balance small objects like feathers or bread crumbs to float on the surface of the water. Then they wait ever so patiently for curious fish to swim up to investigate. I guess I can stop worrying about the adult bird I see associating with the pigeons and ducks. He might not actually be eating the bread crumbs thrown by well meaning people — he may have simply discovered a handy fishing lure source! I shouldn’t have doubted his competence.

DSCN2420
This is what the bird will look like when it is fully grown
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27 thoughts on “Green Heron Babies

  1. Thank you, Debra. I’ve never seen a green heron before; don’t know whether we have them in the Northeast. But I sure know grackles and you are so right about them. It’s amazing to see when hundreds of them wheel up and around in the sky. Fascinating to think of them living in symbiosis with other avians.

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    1. When Chief Dan George wrote, “My heart soars,” I think most of us understand precisely what he meant. Seeing birds in huge formations is truly awesome.

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  2. Such a beautiful birds! It was interesting to read about their (& parakeets) association with grackles. You’re probably right about using them as a warning system. I once saw on a nature show that the frequency of alarm calls is common in most birds, so one species will ‘understand’ the alarms of another. Advantageous evolution!

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    1. I really love the herons — all of the varieties. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they understand each other. I don’t speak much bird ;) but a distress call is obvious even to me.

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  3. When I first saw “velociraptors” in the movies I thought to myself – Gracklesaurs! They are obviously so smart and I’m fascinated that herons are not only also smart but are hanging out with the other smart birds on the block.

    That’s good to know about the bread crumbs. I doubt the ducks leave many for the fish though…or the herons fishing. How great you get to see so many wonderful water fowl close by. I live high and dry in the sense we have no pond and no ponds nearby. I keep thinking we’ll add a water feature but we keep not doing it. One of these days!

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    1. You are so right. That yellow eye and the alert posture … gracklesaurs. I wonder at just how much bread is thrown into those ponds. Pounds and pounds every day I’d guess. Some people do make grain offerings but they are in the minority for sure. I do feel pretty lucky to be near ponds and the creek. I hope I never take that for granted.

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    1. I remember being taught in school (approximately 1 million years ago) that people were the only tool users. That idea has been thoroughly de-bunked with examples not only of other primates but birds and fish and insects. Maybe when the bacteria inherit the earth we will be known as the stupidest creatures in all of natural history. heh

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  4. Lovely!! Both the post and the birds. I’ve only seen one green heron visit my pond and I scared him/her off when I noisily blundered out of the house. Lots of folks dislike grackles, but I’m fascinated by them: they’re smart and quite amusing. I could see them acting as a security force, as they show little shyness.

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    1. Thanks, Tina. It was pretty interesting to witness. You know how very small children will parallel play together — it kind of looks like play but really they are just occupying the same space where there happens to be toys. There isn’t much if any interaction with each other. When I see grackles foraging with others it reminds me of that kind of scene. This felt different; it seemed more engaged like they really were having some kind of conversation.

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