2014-06-19 / Nature

Wading Birds Add Color to the Marshes

By Jack Kelly


Green Heron foraging in Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge restored marsh. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Green Heron foraging in Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge restored marsh. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Migratory wading birds are being sighted across Aquidneck Island as they seek mates and forage for sustenance. Many of the varied species are displaying high breeding colors and specialized plumage. These colorful birds can be found in various aquatic habitats ranging from freshwater ponds, streams and reservoirs, as well as salt marshes and brackish wetlands.

The Glossy Ibis is a fairly common visitor to marshes and farm fields in the Newport County region. This unique wading bird winters along the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf Coast. It is known to nest in colonies on Rose Island, Gould Island and Dyer Island in Narragansett Bay.

The average adult Glossy Ibis is 23 inches long and has a wingspan of 36 inches. It has dark maroon head and neck plumage, with iridescent green and purple wing and body colors, that are illuminated by sunlight. It has a dusky face bordered by narrow, pale blue lines, and dark eyes, which are set above a light colored, decurved bill. It sweeps its bill through shallow waters seeking invertebrates, or probes into wet farm fields where it forages for earthworms. It has a voice that emits a reedy, nasal “urrh” which is rapidly repeated in colony areas.


This Glossy Ibis probes a peat mound in the Gooseneck Cove salt marshes for prey. This Glossy Ibis probes a peat mound in the Gooseneck Cove salt marshes for prey. The Green Heron is a widespread, small wading bird species that nests across a wide region of the United States. It winters along the Gulf Coast, southern Pacific Coast and down into Central and South America. Locally, it nests in wooded swamps, and near ponds and streams.

The average Green Heron is 17 inches long with a wingspan of 26 inches. It has a dark cap, which can be raised as a crest when agitated, a rusty colored neck, and a green pallor to its wings and back, along with a pale, streaked breast. It has a thick dark bill, streaked with lighter tones, and bright yellow legs and eyes.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. It forages in secluded locations, stalking small fish, amphibians, and tadpoles from a perch just above the water’s surface. The Green Heron is a very cryptic bird and is usually only detected by its alarm call, which is given when flushed from a perch. Its flight call and alarm call are similar; a piercing “skiew!” or “skyow!”.

Return to top