2010 Wildlife Facts - Green-Backed Heron

Photo of the Green-backed Heron/Martinete

Green-backed Heron, Striated Heron, Little Green Heron (Eng.), Martinete (Sp.), Butorides striatus (Sci.), common permanent resident avian species of the Puerto Rico archipelago, with winter migrants increasing the population.

Photo from: The Internet Bird Collection. Information compiled by Alan Mowbray, Interpretive Media Writer, EYNF/LEF

General Information

Taxonomy: ClassAves; OrderCiconiiformes; FamilyArdeidae; GenusBufonides; SpeciesB. striatus. Often mistaken for cranes. Herons have an S-shaped curve in their long necks. Unlike cranes, herons hold their heads near their bodies while flying, extending their necks on take-off and landing. Green-backed Herons are adapted for wading in shallow water.


Adult Green- backed Herons are small, gray-green colored birds, with rufous (reddish-orange-yellow) necks. Young are duller colored and more streaked in appearance. They are 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 centimeters) long and weigh approximately 8.5 ounces (241 grams).


The Green-backed Heron usually forages alone, crouching along stream or river banks or low-lying branches and waiting for prey. Puerto Rico’s sole “tool-using” bird, it will occasionally use bait such as twigs, leaves, worms or flies to attract small fishes to within its reach. It will sometimes plunge into shallow water after prey, and will eat crabs, crayfish, insects and other invertebrates, as well as fish, frogs and lizards. It emits a loud “skeeow” call when disturbed. The Green-backed Heron typically nests alone, but will occasionally roost in treetop colonies along with other heron species. The male breaks-off twigs and passes them to the female for nest building. The female lays 3 to 5 blue-green eggs and both sexes share incubation duties for 19 to 21 days and subsequently brood and feed the chicks for the first three weels after hatching. Chicks can fly approximately 21 to 22 days after they hatch.


B. striatus occurs in fresh and saltwater marshes, India Padauk (Pterocarpus indicus) forest, ponds, canals, mangroves, stream borders, calm ocean shores and wet fields.


The Green-backed Heron is classified as a Species of Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Where to look for this animal in the EYNF

Although mostly hidden in streamside vegetation, B. striatus can occasionally be viewed while perched on branches along stream banks or flying at tree-top level between roosts and feeding areas in the Forest’s Tabonuco and Palo Colorado vegetation types.

Additional Information

USDA Forest Service
El Yunque National Forest
HC-01 Box 13490
Rio Grande, PR 00745
787 888 1810

List of Mamals by Month

January: Antillean Fruit Bat February: Tarantula Hawk March: Puerto Rican Vireo
Illustration of the Antillean Fruit Back/Murci��lago Cavernicola
Photo/Link of the Tarantula Hawk
Photo/Link of the Puerto Rican Vireo/Bien-te-veo
April: Puerto Rican Garden Snake May: Little Fire Ant June: Green-backed Heron
Photo/Link of the Puerto Rican Garden Snake/Culebrita de Jard��n
Photo/Link of the Little Fire Ant / Abayalde
Photo/Link of the Green-backed Heron/Martinete
July: Big Brown Bat August: Mottled Coqui September: Puerto Rican Ground Lizard
Photo/Link of the Big Brown Bat/Murci��lago Marr��n Mayor
Photo/Link of the Mottled Coqui/Coqu�� de Eneida
Photo/Link of the Puerto Rican Ground Lizard/Siguana
October: Merlin November: Sooty Mustached Bat December: Common Worm Snake
Illustration of the Suoty Mustached bat/Murci��lago Bigotudo menor
Common worm snake/V��bora com��n