The Many Looks of the Little Green Heron ~ Caught on camera from around the Lowcountry!

I spend many hours out in the field studying bird behavior and photographing them for possible painting subjects. Some birds can be more challenging than others to photograph!

The little Green Heron is a relatively small heron, which for the most part is very skittish and likes to hide along riverbanks or in bushes or trees. It is naturally camouflaged, sporting brown and green feathers, which blend in nicely with its surroundings. It is also very quick and will take off in a flash if it detects unwanted activity in the area.

Being skittish, fast, and naturally camouflaged turns birding for Green Herons into a challenging sport.

The fact that the Green Heron is a master of many looks also makes him fun to photograph.

I ask myself, if I were to paint a Green Heron, how would I like to portray him? The Green Heron is full of personality. One could create a large body of work just painting the many looks of the Green Heron.

I have been fortunate to have had a number of opportunities to zero in on the elusive little heron. I have a wide variety of images to choose from ranging from serious stalking-like poses to almost comical or amusing poses. I thought it might be interesting to show you some of the many looks of the Green Heron from images I’ve taken over the last couple of years around the Lowcountry.

My most recent sighting was in Mount Pleasant at a pond in the community of Charleston National. I came across a rookery where Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets were nesting. While photographing them I noticed a lot of activity from a pair of Green Herons in a bushy area near the water. Turned out the pair had four juveniles they were tending to.

The juvies had what looked like hair plugs on top of their heads (down feathers), where the adult head feathers will soon fill in. They were full of themselves, sometimes gathering 3 or 4 on a branch, waiting impatiently for Mom and Dad to come back with dinner.

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They let me get fairly close over time, as I returned four or five times to photograph them. It was the first time I’ve ever seen more than a pair together.

One of my favorite Green Herons was a bird I photographed in Huntington Beach State Park. It flew up onto the railing of a boardwalk over the marsh and put on quite a performance. He busted a move, he gave me his roadrunner-look with the spiked hairdo, and strutted his stuff like he was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever! He stuck his neck out when I was leaving to say goodbye. :-)

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I was walking Folly Beach one morning and had my first sighting of a Green Heron at the beach. He was off in the distance perched on top of a gnarly old dead tree. He had a primo view!

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One of the funniest poses I’ve ever seen a Green Heron make was right here in Carolina Park, Mount Pleasant, SC, where we live. Again, this one was stationed on a bare branch of a dead tree. His pose was cartoonish and made me laugh. :-)

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The most camouflaged Green Heron I’ve seen was at the Audubon Swamp in Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, SC. Bright green duckweed was all around covering the surface of the water, fallen trees rotting in the swamp. There he was, creeping along, looking for his next meal.

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One of my favorite birding locations is the Pitt Street Bridge, in Mount Pleasant, SC, because of the wide variety of birds that you can see on any given day. I like this shot of my Pitt Street Bridge Green Heron because it’s so colorful and the strong reflections of the broken reeds.

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I was just down in Kiawah and spotted this Green Heron along the edge of a creek. He had his head feathers flared and had just been flirting with his partner who happened to be hiding in the bushes on the other side of the creek.

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Here are a few other pics I’ve taken of this spunky little heron.

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I’m working on a portrait of a Great Egret at the moment, but I’m looking forward to painting the Green Heron sometime soon. I’m not sure yet how I will choose to portray him, but I’ve got some good ideas now.


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion….
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe

Painting the Blues ~ alone and feeling blue?

Most often the Great Blue Heron is seen standing alone dressed in gray and dark blue, or flying solo across the sky. No matter what the weather, nothing seems to bother them. I’ve seen them stand as if frozen in the snow for long lengths of time, out on a limb in inclement weather, sleeping on one leg in the pouring rain, baking on a rock in 100-degree sunshine. If the Great Blue Heron is moody and gets the blues one would never know it. They always appear quite content right where they are and would prefer to just be left alone! ☺

Occasionally you might spot a pair together, especially in the spring during mating season. This fall I’ve witnessed a number of them chasing each other around lake areas, eventually separating and going their own way.

The Great Blue Heron is such an interesting bird to watch, photograph, and paint. It is a sneaky predator and has a stealth-like manner in how it stalks its prey. It glides with grace traveling long distances with relative ease due to its huge wingspan. Takes-offs and landings can be somewhat awkward due to their long, stick-like legs and s-curved neck in flight. Herons will also stand still for long periods of time waiting patiently for fish to swim by, or will rest on one leg for hours.

No matter how they are posed, I always find them fascinating to watch and photograph. It’s always hard for me to choose how I want to portray them in my next Blue painting. Having just completed a close-up portrait of one, entitled The Great One, I thought it would be interesting to look back over my Great Blue Heron paintings, compare them, and write a little bit about each bird.

I’ll start with The Great One. This bird was striking. In one of my photographs I called him The Warrior because his feathers were a little fluffed up from a shake and it looked like he had a coat of armor on. He was a bird you wouldn’t want to mess with. ☺ He was alone, as I watched him groom himself to perfection. He rested-up on one leg for a while and, as if a switch was flicked, turned hunter off in pursuit of his prey.

The Great One    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

The Great One by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

I stumbled upon another solitary Blue on my birthday, January 10th. I was getting skunked on my morning bird outing. I looked up to the sky and kindly said, “It’s my birthday”. I looked down and in front of me and there he was, the Two Rivers Heron, standing in ice-cold water up to his knobby knees. He blended in with the grays, browns, and lavenders of the water surrounding him. I left him where I found him after spending at least a half hour photographing him. He was in no hurry and was appearing to enjoy his lazy, cold, Sunday morning.

Two Rivers Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Two Rivers Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

This next heron, entitled Beach Blue, was standing in the warm, clear waters of Sanibel, Florida. It was living the good life with plenty of fish to nibble on. A fisherman was nearby and he kept looking for the fisherman to toss him the small ones. Island living!

Beach Blue    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

Beach Blue by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

In The Dance, two Great Blue Herons are depicted performing a springtime mating ritual, dancing around each other with their heads pointed skyward. It was the first time I had seen two herons together enjoying each other’s company. It was as if the entire dance was choreographed.

The Dance    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

The Dance by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Unlike The Dance, this next painting captures the heron in a somewhat awkward moment, Taking Flight. Some birds are more skittish than others. A movement or noise can cause the bird to suddenly take flight. This particular bird loved to hang out on this fallen tree. The tree provided a nice vantage point looking out over the marsh below.

Taking Flight    by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

Taking Flight by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

I often spot Blues early in the morning or late in the day. This Blue was an early bird! I took an early morning walk down along the river and there he was already out standing in perfectly calm river water. Usually the river has a flow to it but on that particular morning it was glassy calm and the heron was in his happy place. Morning Calm on the James was inspired by that moment. No place to go, no hurry, no shirt and no shoes! ☺

Morning Calm    on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Morning Calm on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

If it wasn’t for seeing this next Blue flying in overhead and landing on the tree, I might never have spotted him among the Spanish Moss. I think the Lowcountry Heron thought he was undetectable, camouflaged by the hanging moss similar in color and shape. He found a sunny spot to take in the late day sun. What Blues don’t realize is that even though they blend into their surroundings nicely, their white face in the light always gives them away.

Lowcountry Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lowcountry Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lastly, this heron flew by low and slow. Prehistoric looking, huge in size and was on a mission. There was a fog over the lake but the bird stayed below radar, wings almost touching the surface. The painting is entitled Blue Morning and captures an early morning serene moment where the only noise around was the swooshing sound of the heron’s wings cutting through the moisture-laden air.

Blue Morning   by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Painting the Great Blue Heron is something I hope to do many more times. I hope those of you who love the Great Blue Heron enjoyed seeing my compilation of work over the last few years and reading about each bird.

I never get the Blues when I’m painting a Blue! Quite on the contrary. It puts me in my happy place.

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for following my art. I would love to hear from you if you would like to comment below. Thank you!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe

The Great One ~ Portrait of a Great Blue Heron!

For a number of years before I became a birder I would, on occasion, notice a large prehistoric looking bird flying overhead usually when I was on the golf course. The nearly 7-foot wingspan would cast a huge shadow along the fairway as it flew by. I marveled at its size and became fascinated by the bird. I’ve been photographing them, studying their habits and mannerisms, and painting them for years now.

After just painting a portrait of a Great Egret entitled Henry the Great, I thought it was about time to paint a portrait of a Great Blue Heron. I have painted one in flight, along the shoreline, and in a tree, but never a close-up portrait of the magnificent bird.

Henry the Great stood out among the thousands of egret photographs I’ve taken. I wanted to find an image of a Blue Heron that would embody the many striking characteristics of this large, carnivorous, wading bird. I chose #2237 out of nearly 3000 heron pics I’ve kept on my computer over the years.

The Great One    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

The Great One by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

#2237 I call The Great One! He was standing on his own little island in the middle of a pond, surrounded by dark water and hit by the morning light as if he was on stage. Strong and confident looking, patient and in no hurry, he groomed himself to perfection unaware or uncaring that I was present.

He rested his head on his long, pulled-in curved neck and gazed across the pond. What was he thinking? Would he fly off to another location? After all, he had the perfect spot.

Turns out he spent fifteen minutes enjoying his own little oasis before turning back into the stealth-like predator that he is. Unsuspecting fish soon met with their demise, as The Great One repeatedly plunged his long dagger-like beak into the water spearing its prey.

My painting captures him looking out over the pond, with his beak angled downward, and his eyes keenly aware of all going on around him. His feathers are neatly preened with just a few tufts on his forehead standing up but relaxed. No need for this handsome bird to show off and have a full-headdress of feathers standing at attention.

The Great One   by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Great One by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Great One   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

The Great One by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Great Blue Herons have many looks, but this heron stood out among the crowd. I hope you like my painting entitled The Great One.

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I’m enjoying painting bird portraits very much and am already in search of my next subject. Please check back soon to see which bird gets immortalized in oil paint on canvas! ;-)


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What’s next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What’s next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe