Oregon Wildlife Spotlight: Green Herons

November 01, 2022

A green heron hanging out at Neacoxie Creek in Seaside. Photos by Neal Maine

 

We recently bid farewell to another migratory bird species, as the green herons have recently withdrawn from the northern Oregon Coast for the winter.

Green herons are regular summer residents in western and south central Oregon, spending several months of the year nesting and foraging in the area. You’ll find them living near rivers, marshes, estuaries and wooded ponds, and they nest in various environments, from dry woods and willow thickets to open marshes and mangroves.

They have been coming into parts of the Necanicum Estuary system “for as long as I’ve been chasing birds,” says nature photographer and naturalist Neal Maine. “They get fixated on certain hunting sites, and then you can just really depend on seeing them.”

Neal observed several green herons on the coast this summer and fall, before they departed in late October. One was at North Coast Land Conservancy’s Thompson Creek-Stanley Marsh Habitat Reserve in Seaside and the other near Broadway Park. The latter would spend hours perching around the kayak launch and dock area on Neacoxie Creek.

“It would hunt there the entire day,” Neal says.

Green herons are known to be more solitary in most seasons, even secretive. But they will typically nest in pairs or small groups.

Neal enjoys observing these birds, which are less common—or at least less conspicuous—than Great blue herons or similar species on the coast. He described them as “comical birds,” adding “they definitely have all kinds of antics.”

From far away, green herons appear to be entirely dark colored, but when you get closer, you can detect shades of deep green and rich chestnut around their beaks and chests. They are relatively small, or about the size of an American crow, and stocky, with broad, rounded wings; thick necks; short legs; and long, sharp beaks.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, green herons are “one of the few tool-using birds.” They are “experts at making and using baits and lures, such as bread crusts, mayflies, earthworms, sticks, and feathers to catch fish.”

 

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