AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851)
[Pl. 333] London: 1836. Hand-coloured engraving with aquatint and etching by R. Havell, 1836, paper watermarked "J. Whatman/1837," two small clean tears to margins. Sheet size: 24 7/8 x 37 1/4 inches .
From the first edition of "The Birds of America."
A finely composed image with a strong upward diagonal movement from the unheeding juvenile bird as it darts its neck out to seize the Luna moth that has momentarily come to rest on the foliage of the marsh plant. Partially concealed under the foliage, an adult bird stalks past more warily.
"Pools or bayous, and the margins of the most limpid streams, are alike resorted to by this species for the purpose of procuring food. It is little alarmed by the presence of man, and you may often see it close to houses on the mill-dams, or even raising its brood on the trees of gardens. This is often the case in the suburbs of Charleston, in South Carolina, where I have even seen several nests on the same live oak...The gentleness...of this bird is truly remarkable, for it will at times allow you to approach within a few feet paces, looking as unconcernedly upon you as the House Sparrow is wont to do in the streets of London...The Green Herons feed all day long, but, I think, rarely at night. Their food consists of frogs, fishes, snails, tadpoles, water-lizards, crabs, and small quadrupeds, all of which they procure without much exertion...Their gait is light, but firm. During the love-season they exhibit many curious gestures, erecting all the feathers of their neck, swelling their throat, and uttering a rough guttural note like qua , qua , several times repeated by the male as he struts before the female. This note is also usually emitted when they are started, but when fairly on wing they proceed in silence" (J. J. Audubon, The Birds of America , New York & Philadelphia: 1840-1844, vol. VI, pp.106-107). "This small dark heron is the most generally distributed member of its family in the United States...At close range it reveals a rich chestnut neck and greenish-yellow or orange legs. In strong light its somewhat iridescent upper-parts may seem more blue than green...Whereas most other herons breeds in colonies, the green heron tends to be a loner, usually nesting in the privacy of some thick grove or in an orchard, but there are places, particularly near the coast, where several pairs nest together in loose association" (R. T. & V. M. Peterson, Audubon's Birds of America , London: 1981, no. 31).
Susanne M. Low, A Guide to Audubon's Birds of America , New Haven & New York: 2002, pp.170-171.