12 Herons In Alabama (ID, Photos, Calls)

In Alabama, 12 of the 17 species of herons that live throughout North America have been discovered. This guide will assist you in identifying and learning about these long-legged birds.

Herons, which may be found in saltwater, freshwater, or peering into your own pond for a quick snack, are water-loving birds.

However, many of your fish herons are protected and should be caught with a net if you’re having trouble.

Herons prefer to hunt alone by standing absolutely still and waiting or dashing about to stir up the prey, which they do in large colonies known as heronries.

A group of herons is known by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” “siege,” and “pose” for example.

You should learn more about the ducks, swans, and pelicans you may see in Alabama if you like seeing waterbirds.

12 Species Of Heron In Alabama

1. Great Blue Heron

In Alabama, Great Blue Herons may be seen all year and are particularly frequent. Summer checklists and winter checklists submitted by bird observers in the state include them at 18% and 21%, respectively.

The Great Blue Heron is the biggest heron found in North America, and it is a big bird.

The front of their eyes to the back of their heads are covered in a white face with a black crest or plume. Yellow-orangish bills cover their heads.

Their bodies are grayish-blue, with long gray legs and long gray necks with black and white streaking in the front.

  • Ardea herodias
  • Length: 46 – 52 in (117 – 132 cm)
  • Weight: 128 oz (3628 g)
  • Wingspan: 77 – 82 in (196 – 208 cm)

Most US states have Great Blue Herons that stay throughout the year, but they migrate south as they breed in the Mid-West and Canada.

In Florida, the Great Blue Heron is split into two subspecies: the White Heron and the Great White Heron.

Great Blue Herons may be found in a variety of wetland habitats. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake edges, and shorelines are all places where they may be found.

Fish, frogs, salamanders, shrimps, crabs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other aquatic insects make up the majority of Great Blue Herons’ diet.

While wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. Hovering over water, diving into it, leaping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are all possible behaviors.

At colonies high in trees near water, Great Blue Heron nests can be found. Twigs and sticks are used to make the nests, which are then lined with softer material.

Since Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, they may expand them over time by repairing and adding to the nests.

After that, the female lays two to seven eggs. Over the next four weeks, both parents alternately incubate the eggs.

Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons guard their feeding area with magnificent flying displays.

2. Great Egret

In Alabama, Great Egrets may be seen throughout the year and make up 12% of the summer and winter checklists.

Males have neon green facial skin and long, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails during courting season, and Great Egrets are at their best when they’re breeding.

They’re called Great White Herons because they’re huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are another name for them. These enormous birds have dagger-like, long, brilliant yellow beaks and black legs and feet. They are white.

Males, females, and juveniles have the same appearance during non-breeding seasons.

  • Ardea alba
  • Length: 37 – 41 in (94 – 104cm)
  • Weight: 59.96 oz (1699 g)
  • Wingspan: 54 – 55 in (137 – 140 cm)

The world’s greatest egret has a broad range. Those in the southern and coastal United States stay here all year, but those in the interior and Canada travel south.

Great Egrets may be found in both freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as fish ponds.

Fish, frogs, small mammals, crustaceans, and insects make up the majority of Great Egret’s diets. Great Egrets will stand on the water, waiting and scouting for their prey, before striking and spearing it with their lengthy bills.

Great Egrets colonies have nests. To keep the nests safe from predators like raccoons, they are frequently placed high up in trees, preferably on islands.

Marsh plant stems and sticks are used to create them. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty-five days, which can produce up to six eggs.

Fun Fact: Due to their long white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was nearly hunted to extinction. They were primarily used to embellish ladies’ hats.

3. Snowy Egret

All year, snowy egrets may be seen in Alabama, but they are most frequent from April to July and from July until October. Summer checklists include them at 4%, winter checklists include them at 2%, and migratory checklists may include them up to 10%.

The little, all-white herons known as Snowy Egrets get their name from the fact. They have long, black bills and bright yellow feet, as well as yellow irises and skin around their eyes.

Long, lacy feathers grow on their heads, necks, and backs throughout the breeding season. During courtship, their lores or face skin become reddish-pink, and their toes become orange-red.

Interestingly, during aggressive encounters, these regions of their bodies become bright red.

Adults have head plumes, but juveniles do not. Their bills and legs are also lighter in color, and their lores and legs are more greenish-yellow.

  • Egretta thula
  • Length: 22 – 27 in (56 -69 cm)
  • Weight: 16.75 oz (475 g)
  • Wingspan: 39.4 in (100 cm)

Except for the Gulf Coast and the southwest coast, snowy egrets migrate across most of the United States. Throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, they stay throughout the year.

Marshlands, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries are all good places to find Snowy Egrets. They like marshlands with protective trees and shrubs for nesting.

In shallow water, snowy egrets search for fish, crabs, snails, frogs, and crayfish. They may also stir the water to bring their meal to the surface, making it simpler for them to capture. They can stand still and wait for prey to approach them or disturb the water.

Males select Snowy Egret nests. They choose a spot and display themselves to attract mates in order for them to select them. Males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds while the females build the nest as they pair up.

On the ground, nests are often found in trees or disguised as bushes. Both parents take turns incubating their eggs after the female lays two to six eggs. The average incubation period is twenty-four days.

Fun Fact: Because of their exquisite white head feathers, which were ideal for women’s hats, snowy egrets were nearly hunted down to extinction.

4. Green Heron

From March through October, Green Herons are most common in Alabama during the breeding season, with 6% of summer checklists containing them. In southern Alabama, however, many may be seen all year.

The glossy green-black coloring of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of green herons gives them their name, but from a distance they appear bent and gloomy. You need to get much nearer to appreciate this.

During the breeding season, their bills turn black and are two-toned: dark on top and yellow at the bottom. Their irises and legs change color as well, from yellow to orange.

Chestnut or maroon are the colors of their heads, necks, and breasts. A white stripe runs down the front length of their neck, starting at the head. Gray is the color of their bellies.

The young have darker caps and a crest, as well as being browner.

  • Butorides virescens
  • Length: 18 – 22 in (46 – 56 cm)
  • Weight: 9.17 oz (260 g)
  • Wingspan: 25 – 26 in (64 – 66 cm)

Before flying south, Green Herons breed mostly in the eastern United States and the Pacific Coast. The Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and Mexico, on the other hand, have year-round residents.

Green Herons may be found in damp environments with thick vegetation, such as swamps, marshes, lakes, and ponds. They may stay in dry woods or orchards if there are water sources nearby, despite their preference for coastal and inland wetlands.

Little fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents make up Green Herons’ diet. Rather of wading, they usually hunt from the shore by perched on sticks over the water.

Green Heron nests are built high in the trees over water, however they may also be placed on the ground, hidden under shrubs.

Females lay two eggs every two days in a 2-day period. The last egg is laid and the parents begin incubating it, which takes approximately twenty days. When their eggs hatch, both of them feed their young.

Fun Facts:  Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves, are used by Green Herons to catch their prey. This is one of the few bird species that uses tools for foraging.

5. Cattle Egret

In Alabama, Cattle Egrets breed throughout the year, however a few may be seen in southern Alabama throughout the year. From March to October, they can be found on 5% of checklists and are most commonly found in March.

Cattle Egrets breed in Alabama during the summer, but some are seen throughout the year in southern Alabama. They appear in 5% of checklists between March and October, when they are most commonly spotted.

Cattle Egrets use a clever technique of capturing their meal…they stand on the backs of cattle and capture the fleeing prey when the cattle shift and dig up the earth.

Cattle Egrets have white bodies and pale orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs. They are small, short-necked egrets.

They have yellow irises and facial skin. Their bills are small, and their legs are greenish-black. Males and females have a lot in common appearance-wise.

During the breeding season, Cattle Egrets change color and become more brilliant, particularly on their legs and face.

Their light orange patches darken during the breeding season. At the peak of their courting, their bills, legs, and irises turn bright red, and their facial skin (lores) becomes pinkish-red.

  • Bubulcus ibis
  • Length: 19 – 21 in (48 – 53 cm)
  • Weight: 17.98 oz (510 g)
  • Wingspan: 36 – 38 in (91 – 97 cm)

Throughout North America, cattle egrets may be found throughout the year in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southwestern US states.

Those that breed farther north, primarily in the eastern United States, migrate south after breeding.

Cattle Egrets may be found in native grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice paddies, especially where hoofed animals are present.

They will go into the edges of aquatic settings, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, while they prefer to stay on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, sports fields, dumps, and parks are other places where they may be found.

Insects, mostly grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths make up the diet of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, small snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish are also part of their diet.

Cattle Egret nests are usually constructed in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in marshes, or on tiny islands. They’re constructed of sticks and reeds.

Females lay up to nine eggs, which they incubate for around twenty-five days. The young take around 45 days to fledge and fully separate from their parents, including a period of growth, fledging, and independence.

Fun Fact: When foraging on land rather than correcting for light refraction while feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to function with binocular vision.

6. Little Blue Heron

From March through October, Little Blue Herons may be seen in southern Alabama during the breeding season, and they appear on 4% of summer checklists. Some, however, can be seen throughout the year in the state.

The little blue herons aren’t all that tiny. With long, elongated bodies, they range in size from medium to large. Dangling feathers dangle across the nape of their heads and necks, giving them a purple coloration.

During the breeding season, their eyes can turn gray-green. They have two-toned bills, which are pale blue or grayish with black tips and measure about a foot long. Slate-blue is their skin tone. Long, black to gray-green legs are seen on these animals.

Before becoming a mix of dark gray, blue, and white, juvenile Little Blue Herons are completely white during their first year of life.

  • Egretta caerulea
  • Length: 24 – 29 in (61 – 74 cm)
  • Weight: 16.22 oz (460 g)
  • Wingspan: 40 – 41 in (102 – 104 cm)

Although migrating south, little blue herons in the eastern United States breed before spending the winter in Mexico and South America.

Little Blue Herons may be seen around water, such as in bogs, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, and fish hatcheries.

In comparison to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more graceful manner. They merely stand and wait in shallow waters for their prey instead of dashing about across the water.

Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, mice, and insects make up the Little Blue Heron’s diet. Juveniles choose to remain with mixed groups while adults go foraging on their own.

Little Blue Heron nests are created of sticks and often found in groups with other herons. Up to six eggs are deposited by the female. For up to twenty-four days, both parents participate in the incubation process.

Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons come to Snowy Egrets to catch additional fish and gain additional protection from predators because of their white coloring.

7. Tricolored Heron

In southern Alabama, tricolored herons may be seen throughout the year, particularly near the state’s coast. Summer and winter checklists have a 1% chance of containing them.

The white belly and neck stripe of a Tricolored Heron distinguishes it from other herons.

Adults with non-breeding plumage have blue-gray, purple, and white feathers in a mix. Their bills are black with a yellowish or greyish sheen. Yellow or olive green coloration covers their legs and feet.

The rear of the heads of breeding adults are also covered in thin, white feathers, and their beaks turn blue. Their necks and backs have also been upgraded with finer feathers. Their legs, in addition to becoming red, develop an uneven surface.

The neck, upper breasts, upper back, and wings of juveniles are more reddish-brown.

  • Egretta tricolor
  • Length: 24 – 26 in (61 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 14.6 oz (414 g)
  • Wingspan: 36 in (91 cm)

Throughout the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and northern South America, Tricolored Herons stay all year. Those who breed farther north migrate south as they approach the Atlantic Coast.

Tricolored Herons may be found in lakes, marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps.

Freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps are all good places to find Tricolored Herons.

Herons that are tricolored are solitary feeders and protect their feeding grounds. Other wading birds that want to eat tiny fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects will be chased away from their area by these predators.

Stalking, pursuing, standing, and waiting for their victim are all expected behaviors. Before striking, they lie low in the water with their bellies touching the surface and their necks drawn in.

Tricolored Heron nests are built in colonies of trees and shrubs, constructed with sticks. The female lays three to five eggs, and the parents share in the incubation, which takes three weeks before the eggs hatch. They both breastfeed their offspring as well.

Fun Fact: The only dark-colored heron with a white belly, the Tricolored Heron used to be known as the Louisiana Heron.

8. Reddish Egret

In Alabama, Reddish Egrets are a near-threatened species that can be found year-round. Around the coast, they are most often seen.

This is one of the greatest birds to observe because of Reddish Egret’s subdued black and grayish-blue colors and active chasing after fish.

Although appearing reddish, these birds come in dark and light varieties, with white varieties being uncommon.

The bodies, necks, and breasts of dark morph Reddish Egrets are blue-gray. Their bills are black with a pink tip.

The bodies of white morphs are completely white. Their eyes are straw yellow, and their skin (lores) is darker around their legs and feet. They both have blue-black legs and feet.

Adults may mate with either morph, but juveniles are dark or white.

  • Egretta rufescens
  • Length: 27 – 32 in (69 – 81 cm)
  • Weight: 15.9 oz (451 g)
  • Wingspan: 46 in (117 cm)

From the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Mexico to northern South America, Redish Egrets may be found all year.

In open marine flats and beaches, you may expect to see Reddish Egrets. Marshes, shallow bays, and lagoons are also home to them.

Reddish Egrets are mostly solitary birds that search for food. In order to catch fish, they cross shallow, flooded flats. They immediately stab fish with their beaks after they’re successful in frightening them up.

Reddish Egret nests are often found in colonies, with both parents contributing to the construction of a stick platform. They’re often found on islands with nearby feeding habitats.

The female lays seven eggs, which are incubated for twenty-five days by both parents. Even after they leave the nest, they show concern for the young and will feed them for up to nine weeks.

Fun Fact: The male will perform a head toss display and beak snapping during mating, when his feathers puff out and stand out on his head, neck, and back.

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

In Alabama, yellow-crowned night-herons are uncommon, although they are most commonly seen from mid-March to October during the breeding season.

Yellow crowns with two plumes protruding from their heads characterize adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Their black bills are conspicuous. Their remaining heads are black, with a little white patch on the sides below their eyes.

As they grew up, their eyes became red, first yellow, then orange, and finally red.

They have scaled patterns on their wings and are gray-blue in color. During the breeding season, their legs become coral, pink, or red and are long and yellow.

Grayish-brown with white streaks and spots, juveniles begin life. It takes three years for them to grow up.

  • Nyctanassa violacea
  • Length: 22 – 28 in (56 – 71 cm)
  • Weight: 25.6 oz ( 726 g)
  • Wingspan: 42 0 44 in (107 – 112 cm)

Before flying south, yellow-crowned night-herons breed mostly in the southern United States. Throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America, they stay throughout the year.

Prior to moving south, yellow-crowned night-herons breed largely in the southern United States. Throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America, they stay throughout the year.

In coastal areas with a lot of crustaceans, shallow waters, and suitable feeding places, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons at daybreak and dusk.

Crustaceans like crabs and crayfish make up the majority of the Yellow-crowned Night-heron’s diet. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rats and birds are also among the foods they consume. They have the ability to devour tiny prey right away.

Crabs are frequently dismembered or stabbed in the body.

Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ nests are often found in tiny, loosely clustered colonies, but they always prefer to live near water. Both parents construct the nests from soft sticks and twigs that have been moistened with grass, leaves, or moss.

They then incubate up to eight eggs for around three weeks together. The chicks are fed through regurgitation when they hatch. After fledging at around a month, they can fly on their own in around fifty days.

Fun Fact: The eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, which can kill horses and humans, is carried by yellow-crowned night-herons.

10. Black-crowned Night-Heron

While some Black-crowned Night-Herons are sighted here all year, they are most frequent from July to August and appear in 2% of checklists at this time.

The conventional picture of the heron family does not include Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Herons. It has a shorter beak, neck, and legs than other storks.

The black caps of adult Black-crowned Night-herons stretch from a white line above their black bills.

The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, and their eyes are red. They’re lighter on the rear and white on the bottom. Yellow is the color of their legs and feet.

The black head and back take on a glossy blue-green color during the breeding season, while two or three white feathers grow on the crown. The legs and feet turn red or pink, while the lores become black.

The overall color of juveniles is a dull grayish-brown with streaking and spotting.

  • Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Length: 25 – 28 in (64 – 71 cm)
  • Weight: 38.8 oz (1100 g)
  • Wingspan: 44 – 45 in (112 – 114 cm)

The world of black-crowned nightherons is enormous. Before moving south, they breed in the United States and Canada. Some may be seen all year on the beaches.

Wetland environments such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are home to Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also utilized to house them.

Night-feeders such as crayfish and fish, as well as turtles and worms, are black-crowned night-herons. They feed on whatever they can find at night.

Males build nests for Black-crowned Night-herons in bushes or trees in preparation for selecting their mates.

The female will lay up to seven eggs at two-day intervals after that. Within twenty-four days after the eggs are deposited, both parents begin to incubate them. For about three weeks, the parents will look after their infants.

Fun Fact: For more than a century, the National Zoo in Washington, DC has hosted a colony of Black-crowned Night-herons during the summer.

11. Least Bittern

The breeding season for Least Bitterns is from April to August, and they are sometimes seen in Alabama.

The Little Bitterns are the smallest herons in North America, and they’re difficult to locate amid the reeds.

Their brown and white feathers have a black cap and black top to their yellow beak. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.

Females and juveniles have lighter backs and crowns than males, but they are similar.

  • Ixobrychus exilis
  • Length: 11 – 14 in (28 – 36 cm)
  • Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
  • Wingspan: 16 – 18 in (41 – 46 cm)

The Bitterns’ normal range is Europe and Africa, although they have been known to visit North America on occasion.

Least Bitterns may be found in thick freshwater and brackish mucklands with plenty of towering cattails and reeds. Search for them perched on reeds.

They’ll freeze up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in tandem with the reeds as soon as they detect danger.

Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and mice are among the foods of the Least Bittern. They balance themselves on the reeds, reaching their victim on the water’s surface through acrobatic contortions.

The female of the Least Bittern creates well-concealed platforms out of cattails and marsh plants for her nests. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty days after she lays up to seven. They then regurgitate food for the benefit of newly hatched chicks.

Fun Fact: The neck of the Lesser Bittern is long, but it usually stays hunched.

12. American Bittern

During the winter, American Bitterns may be found in Alabama, although they are not particularly common.

In the spring of the American Bittern, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear their strange watery boom calls long before they are visible. Below you’ll find a few samples…

The Heron family includes the American Bitterns, which are stout, medium-sized birds.

Because of their brown striped and mottled patterning, as well as their capacity to stay still amid the reeds with their head tilted skyward, they resemble the reeds they hide in.

They have short legs and yellow eyes that turn orange during mating.

  • Botaurus lentiginosus
  • Length: 23 in (58 cm)
  • Weight: 25.6 oz (726 g)
  • Wingspan: 42 – 50 in (107 – 127 cm)

Before migrating to the Gulf Coast and Mexico, American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states.

Shallow freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds are nearly always home to American Bitterns.

To discover them, use your eyes to look for the edges of lakes and ponds amid the dense vegetation.

Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the American Bitterns’ diet. They wait for their prey to approach them, then swiftly swoop forward to capture them in their bills, stealthily foraging among the reeds.

In the water, among coarse vegetation, you may discover nests of American Bitterns. Females pick a nest location on their own and construct it using available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other flora.

They lay seven eggs, which are kept for around twenty-six days while they are being incubated. The females feed the chicks straight into their beaks when they are born, via regurgitation. They fled the nest after two weeks and are fully grown in six to seven weeks.

They produce around twenty-six days of incubation for seven eggs. The chicks are fed straight into their beaks by the females after being hatched. They fled the nest two weeks after arriving, and it takes six to seven weeks for them to be fully mature.

Fun Fact: Like the reeds that cover them to conceal themselves, American Bitterns rise upwards and swing gently from side to side.

Herons in Alabama in summer:

Great Blue Heron 18.6%

Great Egret 12.9%

Green Heron 6.9%

Cattle Egret 5.9%

Little Blue Heron 4.5%

Snowy Egret 4.3%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1.3%

Tricolored Heron 1.3%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.8%

Reddish Egret 0.8%

Least Bittern 0.6%

American Bittern 0.1%

Herons in Alabama in winter:

Great Blue Heron 21.3%

Great Egret 11.3%

Snowy Egret 2.6%

Tricolored Heron 0.8%

Reddish Egret 0.7%

Little Blue Heron 0.6%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.5%

Cattle Egret 0.2%

Green Heron 0.1%

American Bittern 0.1%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron <0.1%

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