Friday, April 24, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tuleyome Tales: Blue and green herons: the long and short of it

BlueHeronW

The great blue heron is the largest heron in the United States standing about 4-feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan. Mary Hanson/Courtesy photo


By Mary K. Hanson
Two of the most common herons in the local region are the great blue heron (Ardea Herodias), the largest heron in the United States, standing about 4 feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan, and the green heron (Butorides virescens), the smallest of the herons, standing only about 18 inches tall, about the size of a crow.

Finding them is relatively easy since they both like ponds, the margins of rivers, irrigation canals and flooded fields — and taking photos and video of them is a lot of fun.
Aside from their stately size, the great blue herons are easily recognizable by their plumage, which is generally a dark gray-lavender overall streaked on the breast with black, white and rust. The heron’s face is usually white, with a black stripe leading from its yellow eyes to the longer plumage at the back of the head.

When breeding, the blues sport longer plumes on their backs, breasts and upper thighs; their lower legs look more orange; and the rim around the bill turns blue. March is one of the best months to see them all decked out in their mating attire.
In California, the great blue herons are non-migratory, and prefer to roost above ground in tall trees during the night. The females build nests out of twigs provided by the males, and can lay up to eight eggs in a clutch. Both parents incubate the eggs and provide for their hatchlings. The babies can fly when they’re about 2 months old.

These herons generally live about 10 years, but some have been known up to 23 years.
Although they are expert fishermen and primarily eat fish, crustaceans, insects and amphibians, great blue herons will eat just about anything they can catch, including other smaller birds and rodents. Their basic fishing and capturing technique consists of a slow, almost motionless stance, and then a sharp stab with their bill, which impales the prey.
The much smaller green heron is a little more sophisticated hunter. It’s one of the few birds that uses “lures” like feathers, bugs or berries to attract fish. It pitches its “bait” out onto the surface of the water, and then waits for something come by and snap at it. If the bait drifts, the heron will run along the bank looking for an opportunity to regain it. I saw a green heron at a local pond use discarded Cheetos as his “bait” for the small fish in the pond. Ha!

They prefer a diet of fish, but also will eat bugs, snails, reptiles, spiders and smaller rodents when they can catch them.
At a distance, green herons look more chestnut brown than green, and it’s only when you get close that you can see the dark green sheen on its back, wing and top-knot feathers. During mating season, or when startled by trespassers, the heron will lift the long feathers on its head in display.
Breeding usually takes place between March and July. The male selects the nesting site but, like the male great blue heron, leaves the construction of the nest to the female. She usually lays about three to five pale blue or greenish eggs, and both she and her mate care for their young until they’re fledged (in about a month). Green herons can live up to seven years, although a shorter lifespan is more common.
The green heron’s numbers in the United States have declined about 2 percent every year (an accumulated drop of about 53 percent between 1966 and 2010). They’re not on any “high concern” list yet, but their numbers are being watched regularly. The biggest threat to them is the loss of habitat through the draining and development of wetland areas.
When you go out hiking in the region, take your camera with you, and keep an eye out for these two beauties. Their distinct coloring and waterside antics always make for great photo-taking opportunities.
— Tuleyome Tales is a monthly publication of Tuleyome, conservation organization with offices in Woodland and Napa. Mary K. Hanson is an amateur naturalist and photographer who currently serves as executive assistant to Tuleyome’s executive director. For more information about Tuleyome, visit to www.tuleyome.org.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    New design submitted for conference center

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Water and power have a troubling interdependency

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Bob Dunning: Fairness is an afterthought for them

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Los Angeles march to commemorate Armenian killings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Hostage deaths a reminder of risk of ‘deadly mistakes’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4Comments are off for this post

     
    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Beginning tai chi classes start May 5

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    College Night set April 30 at DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    School board hears report on health services

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

     
    Tour of co-ops precedes Sacramento conference

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Mamajowali will perform at benefit house concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Explorit: Celebrate International Astronomy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Learn basics of composting in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Winkler Dinner raises funds for enology, viticulture activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Raptor Center welcomes visitors at May 2 open house

    By Trina Wood | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Take a peek at region’s past at Tremont Mite Society’s social

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    BeerFest expands to include cider

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Mapping where human action is causing earthquakes

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A9

    Hummingbird health: Appreciating the little things

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

     
    Thanks for supporting the arts

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Bike Swap another success

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Drink is a tasteless insult

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    The fight for gender pay equity

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    It’s a depressing beat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Lehner talks about the UCD student-athlete experience

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Reeling Blue Devils stop skid against Sheldon

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie Spring Game environment will up the gridiron fun factor

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Rare DHS track loss still full of highlights

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Lester, Osborne lead Storm over Dixon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Lady Demons’ fundraiser a smash hit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Pro baseball roundup: River Cats lose their fourth straight

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    ‘Ex Machina': The perils of playing God

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Ceramicist works will be featured at The Artery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Chamber expands Korean sister-city opportunities

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Car Care: Tips for buying your first ATV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Subaru goes rear-wheel drive with sporty BRZ coupe

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Whitney Joy Engler

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Valente Forrest Dolcini

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 24, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5