Here we will describe Herons you can see in United States. These can be found in wetlands, swamps, marshes, rivers, and coastal areas. So, keep your eyes open and gain some knowledge.
In this guide, we will give in-depth information about different types of herons.
On this page
Great Blue Heron
Height 46 inches
The Great Blue Heron is the largest and most wide spread of our native egrets and herons.
Great Blue Herons have a small reddish shoulder patch. The crown of the head is white. Plumes on head, neck and back during breeding season. Bill yellow and black during breeding, more yellow in non-breeding plumage.
Great Blue Herons will eat almost anything they catch, including fish, frogs, snakes and baby birds.
Great Blue Herons tend to be stalkers, standing still before suddenly stabbing its prey with its very powerful beak.
Juvenile Great Blue Herons have a solid dark head, with a dark upper bill and yellow lower bill. © Greg Lavaty
Great Blue Herons often give a prehistoric-sounding croak as they take off.
A white morph is found in Florida (Great White Egret shown here). A white-headed form is found in the Florida Keys. Very similar to Great Egret but it has yellow legs instead of black legs.
Height 18 inches
At about 18 inches, the Green Heron falls on the other side of the size scale from the Great Blue. The Green Heron is our smallest heron.
Legs of male Green Heron are red when in breeding plumage. Otherwise legs of males and females are gray-green.
These small, chunky herons are wide-spread and usually found near wetlands. However, we often receive images of this species in backyards or in tree tops, if there is water nearby.
In flight, feet barely extend behind tail.
Juvenile Green Herons are more heavily streaked on the chest and spotted on the back.
Reader Lita Morris sent in this photo of a very young Green Heron. Thank you Lita!
Little Blue Heron
Height 24 inches
The Little Blue Heron is white as a juvenile and generally dark blue as an adult.
Bill is gray with darker tip. Legs are green. Blue body. Head has a purplish appearance in good light. Head is shaggy in breeding plumage.
Juvenile Little Blue Herons are white, with bright, green legs.
As Little Blue Herons molt into adult plumage they can have a pied appearance.
Feet extend well behind the tail when in flight.
Height 26 inches
Tricolored Herons have long, thin bills. Previously known as the Louisiana Heron.
In breeding plumage – bill blue, head and neck shaggy with plumes on the back.
A pinkish/purple sheen can be seen on the neck feathers in good light.
The Tricolored is quite colorful during the breading season.
Note the bi-color bill and leg color on this shaggy-looking Tricolored Heron.
Juvenile Tricolored Herons have a chestnut neck and wing coverts.
The white on the belly extends well into the underwing.
Feet extend far beyond the end of the tail.
Conclusion – Long story short
Great Blue Herons are the largest of the four heron species and are characterized by their tall stature, blue-gray plumage, and long neck and bill.
Green Herons are the smallest of the four species and are identified by their dark greenish-blue back and wings, chestnut-colored neck, and distinctive crest on their head.
Little Blue Herons are slightly larger than Green Herons but smaller than Great Blue Herons. They have a bluish-gray body, a dark-tipped bill, and greenish legs.
Tricolored Herons are slightly larger than Little Blue Herons and have a distinctive blue-gray body with white stripes on their neck and chest. They also have a distinctive bill that is yellow with a black tip.