Hello, I read your blog daily as it has great information even though you are in Michigan and I am in northern VA. I get a lot of transit birds through here on the way up to you. The other day I thought I was taking a picture of one of the two Green Herons that are on a lake that I walk around. When I got home and looked at the pictures, I was stumped. Is this a Least Bittern or? Thanks, Birding in Northern VA.
I think your first guess was correct. It looks like an unusual pose of a Green Heron (Butorides Virescens). They are stocky birds with a greenish-black cap, a greenish back and wings, a chestnut neck with a white line down the front, grey underparts and short yellow legs.
The long neck you captured in you photograph is not usually seen. Most of the time the Green Herons perch in the shadows, near water with their head pulled in tight against their body. When they spot fish, their neck can dart out quickly to stab its prey with a long, sharp pointed bill.
The Green Heron spends its winters in the southern U.S. and further south to Venezuela, Panama, and the West Indies. However it breeds across most of the U.S including your state and mid-Michigan. You can find the birds along the shoreline of rivers, oceans, lakes, and ponds.
The Green Heron are fun to observe. The birds feed normally at dawn and dusk but those hours are extended when there are hungry young to feed. They are one of the few tool-using birds. They prefer to hunt for frogs and small fish in shallow, weedy wetlands and are often seen dropping small debris, like bugs and feathers as a form of bait to attract fish within their striking range.
The video below is one of many I found showing the Green Heron fishing.
Thanks for your positive feedback. My intention is to write a short blog every day with little tidbits of information you can take away and share with others to spread the joy of birdwatching and nature. I tend to write about mid-Michigan because that is where our two Wild Birds Unlimited stores are located but everyone is welcome to ask questions or share stories and photos. Please write again anytime!