Patient Number 2013-00797 Butorides Virescens
A Green Heron

Arriving on June 3rd, our next noteworthy patient was a green heron (Butorides virescens), case number 2013- 00797. As adults, green herons are all legs, neck and beak. They look like a gangly teenager who has not grown into his limbs. As a nestling, they look a bit like prehistoric fuzz! They have big feet that, thus far, they are unable to use for standing. They are also encumbered with a long beak, over which they do not have control and huge eyes that do not quite focus yet. It takes a long time for all of these parts to de- velop into the precise predator that treads so lightly along waterway edges and snatches unsuspecting fish and amphibians.

This nestling had been found along the canal path in Princeton. For unknown reasons he was out of a nest and far from the nesting area in Princeton. He was emaciated, dehydrated and hypothermic. He also had a few superficial abrasions. Over the next few weeks he graduated from being tube fed a slurry mixture of fish to being hand fed small pieces of fish, to picking up pieces on his own. We were not, however, able to convince him that he needed to catch live, moving fish from a pan of water.

We reached out to our colleagues to the north, The Raptor Trust in Millington, New Jersey. Luckily, they happened to be caring for a young green heron, as well. A week or so older than the one we had, he had figured out the art of catching a meal. So, on June 29th, we packed

up our stubborn patient and sent him to north Jersey for some lessons in competing for food. It worked like a charm! Within a few days they were like old fishin’ buddies and within a few weeks had been introduced and released into a suitable habitat near The Raptor Trust. 

Return to Case by Case.