Green herons are carnivorous, mainly eating fish and invertebrates. They are opportunistic foragers with a broad prey base, depending on the availability of species present. They exploit superabundant food resources, such as breeding frogs. Their invertebrate diet includes: leeches, earthworms, dragonflies, damselflies, waterbugs, grasshoppers, and crayfish. Some of the many fish eaten are: minnows, sunfish, catfish, perch, eels, and, in urban areas, goldfish. Other vertebrates eaten are rodents, lizards, frogs, tadpoles, and snakes.
Their heavy bill enables them to capture large prey. Feeding can take place at any time, day or night. Typically, prey is captured with a darting stroke of the head and neck, lunging the body towards the victim and either grabbing or impaling the prey.
Among North American diurnal herons, green herons exhibit the fewest kinds of feeding behaviors. They are known to use 15 of the 36 heron feeding behaviors. The most common feeding technique is to stand in a crouched position, horizontal to the water surface, with neck and head retracted. They stand still for long periods of time before changing sites. Standing is often interspersed with slow walking in a crouched posture in the water or bordering vegetation. Herons use their feet to cause potential prey to move and then capture them. They may also dive from perches head first into deep water, becoming submerged, although this isn't a very efficient method. The greatest capture success is in shallowest water (0-10 cm) and the poorest success is in deeper water (20-30 cm).
Green herons are one of the few tool-using birds. They use a variety of baits and lures, such as crusts of bread, mayflies, and feathers. They then put the bait on the water surface and wait for prey to attack the bait. They stand motionless near the bait until a small fish or other animal approaches and then grab the prey. Success rates have been highest when live bait was used versus inanimate or dead bait. Juvenile herons are not as adept at baiting prey (Davis and Kushlan, 1994; Hancock and Kushlan, 1984; Hancock, 1999).
Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms; aquatic or marine worms
Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)