Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a wading bird that can be seen near water across North America and breeds throughout the eastern United Sates, Western Texas and New Mexico. It is 14 inches in length, with short yellow legs and a wingspan of 25 inches. This wading bird has a black head that runs into a blue-gray back and wings. The neck is chestnut in color with a white chin, and a white stripe that can be seen on its neck. Females are a little smaller in size with duller and lighter coloring. The Green Heron is almost invisible as it stands completely still, waiting for a fish to be lured into striking distance.

The Green Heron lurks near the edge of the water and feeds on fish most of the time. It is not unusual, however, for them to include spiders, leeches, reptiles, insects, mollusks and crustaceans in their diet. What makes the Green Heron unique is his tool-using fishing method. The heron will use bait to lure the fish close enough for him to strike. Bait such as twigs, insects, feathers and earthworms are dropped into the water, where the Green Heron waits patiently and motionless for his catch. Due to its diet, the heron will often wander to different locations, but will always choose a freshwater site or water marshes. They usually do not travel vast distances, but on occasion, they have been found in France and England.

During the breeding season the male heron will first find an adequate nesting location before finding a partner. This nesting location will be fiercely protected, as the nesting location and a visual display forms part of the male’s bait to lure a mate. He will only mate with one female in a breeding season. Both the male and female heron will contribute in the building of the nest, with the male finding the material and the female taking care of the construction. She will then lay between three to six eggs, after which both birds will assist in the three weeks incubation period. At two weeks, the chicks are able to snap up insects and fledge the nest at three weeks old.

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is a wading bird that is found in Africa and in parts of Asia and Europe. They frequent rivers, lakes, marshy areas and savannahs. They can often be found near cattle that disturb insects, areas where humans might leave offal and often scavenge from vultures and other animals. The Marabou Stork is somewhat scruffy looking, with a long pointed beak, almost no feathers on his head and neck, and a pouch of skin that hangs from its beak. It is a bird that is impressive in size, at approximately 115 to 152 centimeters in length, and can weigh up to 9 kilograms. From under its throat and across its belly, the Stork is white, with its upper body parts, such as back and wings, covered in black plumage.

Marabou Storks are scavengers, and will not only feed on animal carcasses, but will also settle for frogs, termites, snakes, fish, grasshoppers, rodents, and even young flamingos or nestlings. In general, the stork is not fussy when it comes to his meals. It has also been known that these scavengers will walk in front of a moving fire to collect the fleeing animals.

Due to the having a big body and carrying a lot of weight, the Marabou Stork’s long legs have hollow bones. This assists the bird to be able to take off from the ground, and enable flight. When the storks take to flight, they are extremely elegant and fly with their legs outstretched and necks resting in a “S” position.

Nesting can either be a solitary event or the stork will find a colony of a mixture of birds. Nests are constructed from twigs and are built in trees. The nests are very large constructions, and many smaller birds will nest amongst the twigs. The female Marabou Stork will usually lay between two to three eggs at a time, and the incubation period for the eggs is 29 to 31 days. At times, the incubation period can last 50 days. Both parents will scavenge for food to feed the chicks, and after about four weeks the chicks are able to stand. It takes a few months for the chicks to grow flight feathers, and even after they are able to fly they still remain dependant on their parents for several more weeks.