Connecticut has seen 11 of the 17 species of herons that live in North America on a regular basis. There’s a special 1 that comes along once in a while. This guide will assist you in identifying and understanding about these long-legged birds.
Herons, which can be found in saltwater, freshwater, and even peering into your backyard pond for a quick meal, are water-loving birds.
Nonetheless, many of your fish herons are protected, thus a net is your best option if you’re having trouble feeding them.
Herons prefer to hunt alone, either by standing still and waiting or by darting about to rouse the prey, and they often build heronries in huge colonies.
A group of herons is referred to as a “rookery,” a “battery,” a “hedge,” a “siege,” or even a “pose.” There are an astonishing number of names for such birds!
You might learn more about the ducks, swans, or pelicans you may observe here if you like observing waterbirds in Connecticut.
12 Species Of Heron In Connecticut
1. Great Blue Heron
Connecticut has a large population of Great Blue Herons, which can be seen year-round, but especially from April to November. They’ve been spotted on 13% of summer and 6% of winter bird watcher checklists for the state.
The Great Blue Heron is the biggest heron found in North America, and it is a very big bird.
Their crest or plume, which extends from the front of their eyes to the back of their heads, is white in color with a black crest or plume. Yellow-orangish is the color of their bills.
They have grayish-blue bodies and long gray legs with a long neck that is streaked with black and white 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, but they migrate south during the breeding season.
In Florida, the Great White Heron is a white morph variant of the Great Blue Heron.
Great Blue Herons may be found in a variety of wetland settings. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake edges, and shorelines are all examples of 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’ diets.
While wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. They may also dive into the water, jump feet-first from perches, or float on the water’s surface.
Great Blue Heron colonies are situated high in the trees near water, where their nests may be found. Twigs and sticks are used to make the nests, which are lined with softer material.
Because Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, the nests can grow in size over time as they are repaired and added to.
After that, the female lays two to seven eggs. The eggs are incubated for around four weeks by both parents.
Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons protect their feeding area with spectacular extended-wing displays.
2. Great Egret
From mid-March to November, Great Egrets may be found in Connecticut, although a few may stay all year. Summer checklists include them in 13% of the time.
Males have neon green facial skin and lengthy, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails during courting, just like a peacock shows off its tail. The best time to see Great Egrets is during the breeding season.
They are gigantic, and hence known as Great White Herons, all-white herons. Common egrets are a name given to them. These huge birds feature long, black legs and feet and dagger-like, long bills. They are white in color.
Males, females, and juveniles all have the same appearance during non-breeding season.
- Ardea alba
- Length: 37 – 41 in (94 – 104cm)
- Weight: 59.96 oz (1699 g)
- Wingspan: 54 – 55 in (137 – 140 cm)
The Great Egret’s range extends across the globe. The birds stay in the southern and coastal US states throughout the year, while those that are farther inland migrate 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, which stand motionless on the water for hours before striking and piercing their victim with their long beaks, may be seen doing so.
Great Egret colonies include nests. To protect the nests from predators such as raccoons, they are usually placed high up in trees, preferably on islands.
Sticks, twigs, and marsh plant stems are used to make them. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty-five days, which can range from six to six.
Fun Fact: Because of their lengthy white plumes (aigrettes), the Great Egret was practically driven to extinction. They were mostly utilized to embellish ladies’ headgear.
3. Snowy Egret
From April through October, you may see snowy egrets around Connecticut, as they breed. Summer checklists include 8% of these.
Little, all-white herons named Snowy Egrets. They have long, black beaks, long, black legs, and brilliant yellow feet with yellow irises.
Their heads, necks, and backs are covered in long, lacy feathers throughout the breeding season. Throughout courting, their lores or facial skin turn reddish-pink, and their toes turn orange.
During aggressive interactions, these parts of their bodies light up like a bonfire.
Adults and juveniles have head plumes, but the juveniles do not. Their bills and legs are likewise lighter, and their lores and legs are more greenish-yellow in color.
- 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 from all 50 states. Throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, they are present year-round.
Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries in shallow, dampland environments. They prefer marshlands with protective trees and plants for breeding.
Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are all hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may stay still and wait for prey to approach them, or they may stir up the water to bring their food to the surface.
Males choose among snowy egret nests. They choose a spot and put on a full show to entice their mates. The males continue to provide sticks, sedges, or reeds to the females as they pair up and start building the nest.
Nests are normally found in trees or on the ground, hidden among bushes. Both parents take turns incubating their eggs after the female lays two to six eggs. The incubation period is usually around twenty-four days.
Fun Fact: Because of their exquisite white head feathers, which were ideal for women’s hats, snowy egrets were on the verge of extinction.
4. Black-crowned Night-Heron
All year, Connecticut is home to black-crowned night-herons, although they are most visible from April to October. Summer checklists include them in 3% of the total.
The traditional image of the heron family does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Herons. It has a shorter bill, neck, and legs than other types of stork.
Black caps cover adult Black-crowned Night-herons’ black bills, which is bordered by a white line.
The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, while their eyes are red. The bottom is white, while the back is darker. Yellow is the color of their legs and feet.
The head and back become glossy blue-green during the breeding season, with two or three white feathers appearing on the crown. The legs and feet darken, while the lores turn crimson or pink.
The juveniles are a drab grayish-brown color with streaking and spots.
- Nycticorax nycticorax
- Length: 25 – 28 in (64 – 71 cm)
- Weight: 38.8 oz (1100 g)
- Wingspan: 44 – 45 in (112 – 114 cm)
The range of Black-crowned Night-herons is enormous. Before heading south, they breed in the United States and Canada. Along the beaches, some survive all year.
Wetland habitats such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are ideal places to find Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also utilized for them.
Male black-crowned night-herons prepare for choosing their mates by building nests in bushes or trees, which are started by the males.
After that, the female will deposit up to seven eggs every two days. For roughly twenty-four days, both parents begin to incubate the eggs after they are deposited. Over the course of roughly three weeks, the parents will care for their child.
Fun Fact: For more than a century, the National Zoo in Washington, DC has hosted a colony of Black-crowned Night-herons for the summer.
5. Green Heron
Herons breed in Connecticut and show up on 3% of summer checklists. Around April, they arrive, and by October, they have started migrating.
The glossy green-black coloring of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of green herons attracts you when you see them from a distance, but you’ll have to get closer to appreciate this.
During the breeding season, their bills turn black and have two-toned, dark on top and yellow at the bottom. Their irises and legs turn orange as well.
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 middle. Gray is the color of their bellies.
Browner and with black heads, juveniles have a higher crest.
- Butorides virescens
- Length: 18 – 22 in (46 – 56 cm)
- Weight: 9.17 oz (260 g)
- Wingspan: 25 – 26 in (64 – 66 cm)
Before migrating south, Green Herons breed mostly in the eastern US and on the Pacific Coast. Those in the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, and Mexico, on the other hand, are year-round residents.
Green Herons may be found in damp environments with thick vegetation, such as bogs, 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 the Green Herons’ diet. Instead of wading, they usually hunt from the shore by perched on sticks above the water.
Although some Green Heron nests may be found on the ground, hidden under bushes, they are made of long, slender twigs high in the trees over water.
Females lay two eggs per day, in two-day periods, on average. The final egg is laid and incubation by both parents begins roughly twenty days later. When their eggs hatch, they both feed their offspring.
Fun Facts: Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves are used by Green Herons to catch their quarry, which is one of the few bird species that do so.
6. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
From mid-March to October, yellow-crowned night-herons may be found in Connecticut, accounting for 2% of all summer checklists.
The crowns of adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons are yellow, and two plumes extend from their heads. Their bills are huge, and they’re black. The sides of their heads below their eyes are white, with the rest of their heads black.
As they got older, their eyes turned from yellow to orange to red.
Their wings feature a scaled pattern and they have gray-blue skin. During the breeding season, their legs lengthen and turn crimson, pink, or scarlet.
- Nyctanassa violacea
- Length: 22 – 28 in (56 – 71 cm)
- Weight: 25.6 oz ( 726 g)
- Wingspan: 42 0 44 in (107 – 112 cm)
Before heading south, yellow-crowned night-herons breed in the southern United States. Throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America, they stay throughout the year.
In coastal places with a lot of crustaceans, shallow waters, and significant edges on which to feed, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons at dawn 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, rodents, and birds are among the animals they eat. Little prey is quickly devoured by them.
Crabs are frequently dismembered or stabbed in their bodies.
Yellow-crowned Night-herons often construct nests near water, and their nests are typically found in tiny loose colonies. Both parents construct the nests out of grass, leaves, or moss-softened sticks and twigs.
They then incubate up to eight eggs for around three weeks before laying them up. The chicks are fed regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge after about a month and can fly on their own after fifty days.
Fun Fact: The eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, which can kill horses and humans, is carried by yellow-crowned night-herons.
7. Little Blue Heron
On 1% of summer checklists, Little Blue Herons are seen. In March, they arrive in Connecticut, and in October, they begin to migrate.
Little Blue Herons are a little bigger than adults. With long, stretched bodies, they’re medium to large in size. They have dangling feathers across the nape of their heads and necks, which give them a purplish hue.
During the breeding season, their eyes may turn gray-green and be pale yellow. Their two-toned bills are long and dagger-like, with black tips. They have slate-blue bodies. Long and dark to gray-green in color, they have long legs.
Before becoming a combination of dark gray, blue, and white, juvenile Little Blue Herons are totally white throughout their first year.
- Egretta caerulea
- Length: 24 – 29 in (61 – 74 cm)
- Weight: 16.22 oz (460 g)
- Wingspan: 40 – 41 in (102 – 104 cm)
Before migrating south, Little Blue Herons breed in eastern states, but those along the Gulf Coast and Mexico remain year-round.
Little Blue Herons may be seen in bogs, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields around water.
In comparison to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more elegant manner. They simply stand and wait in shallow waters for their prey, rather than dashing about across the water.
Little Blue Heron nests are constructed of sticks and generally found in groups with other herons. Up to six eggs are laid by the female. The incubation period is twenty-four days in total, with both parents contributing.
Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ presence among Snowy Egrets allows them to catch more fish and provide additional protection from predators because of their white coloring.
8. American Bittern
During migration from October to November, American Bitterns are frequently seen in Connecticut.
In the spring of the American Bittern, you may hear their strange watery boom calls long before you see them if you’re lucky. Below are a few examples of them.
American Bitterns are chunky, medium-sized, solitary birds belonging to the Heron family.
The Heron family includes American Bitterns, which are big, solitary birds.
Because of their brown striped and speckled patterning and ability to remain motionless amid the reeds with their head tilted upward, they resemble the reeds they hide in.
They have short legs and yellow eyes that change to orange during mating.
- Botaurus lentiginosus
- Length: 23 in (58 cm)
- Weight: 25.6 oz (726 g)
- Wingspan: 42 – 50 in (107 – 127 cm)
Before traveling to the Gulf Coast and Mexico, American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states.
Shallow freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds are home to American Bitterns nearly exclusively.
Look for them along the margins of lakes and ponds, under the dense foliage.
Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They wait quietly and still in the reeds, hunting their prey until it draws nearer and then springs forward swiftly to capture it in their beaks.
American Bitterns’ nests may be located among thick vegetation on the water’s edge. With available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other vegetation, females select the nest location and construct it themselves.
They lay seven eggs, which take around twenty-six days to hatch. Females feed the chicks directly into their beaks when they are born. They fly from the nest after two weeks, and it takes six to seven weeks for them to be completely independent.
Fun Fact: Like the reeds that hide them to conceal themselves, American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side.
9. Least Bittern
In Connecticut, least bitterns can be found from May to September, however they are rarely seen.
Littleest herons in the Americas, least bitterns are hard to locate amid the reeds since they are the tiniest herons.
The smallest herons in the Americas are Least Bitterns, and they’re difficult to hear since they’re so small.
Their yellow beaks have a black cap and black top, and they are brown and white in hue. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.
Females and juveniles have lighter backs and crowns than males, but they are otherwise similar.
- Ixobrychus exilis
- Length: 11 – 14 in (28 – 36 cm)
- Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
- Wingspan: 16 – 18 in (41 – 46 cm)
The Bitterns’ typical range is Europe and Africa, although they do visit North America on occasion.
The typical habitat of Little Bitterns is Europe and Africa, although they may be found in North America on rare occasions.
Least Bitterns may be found around marshes with several tall cattails and reeds, as well as in thick freshwater and brackish marshlands. When they perch on reeds, look for them.
They will quickly stiffen up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in unison with the reeds as soon as they sense danger.
Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and even mice are among the foods of the Least Bittern. They situate themselves on the reeds, some of them doing acrobatic contortions just to reach their victim on the water’s surface.
The female of Least Bitterns makes well-concealed platforms out of cattails and marsh vegetation for her nests. Parents incubate their seven eggs for around twenty days, after which she lays them up to seven. They then regurgitate food to feed newly-hatched chicks.
Fun Fact: The necks of Least Bitterns are rather long, yet they usually keep their heads bent.
10. Tricolored Heron
From mid-March to October, tricolored herons can be found in southern Connecticut, although they are not particularly common.
The white belly and neck stripe on a Tricolored Heron distinguishes it from other herons.
The white belly and neck stripe of a Tricolored Heron distinguishes it from other herons.
Adults that are not breeding have a purple-blue and white plumage. Their bills have a black tip and are yellowish or greyish. Yellow or olive green are the legs and feet of these creatures.
The back of the head of breeding adults is likewise covered with thin, white feathers, and their bill becomes blue at the base. On their necks and backs, they have finer feathers. Their legs, too, turn a reddish color.
Particularly around the neck, upper breasts, upper back, and wings, 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 throughout the year. Those that breed farther north along the Atlantic Coast migrate south.
In freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps, you may see Tricolored Herons.
Solitary feeders, tricolored Herons are aggressive about their feeding habitat. They like to devour tiny fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects, so they will drive away other wading birds who attempt to feed on their area.
They’re expected to stalk, chase, stand, and wait for their victim. Before striking, they squat low in the water, with their bellies flush against the surface and their necks pulled in.
Tricolored Heron nests are constructed of sticks and are found in trees and shrubs in colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents participate in the incubation process, which takes three weeks before the eggs hatch. The young are also fed by both of them.
Fun Fact: The only dark-colored heron with a white belly, the Tricolored Heron was formerly known as the Louisiana heron.
11. Cattle Egret
Although Connecticut is not home to many Cattle Egrets, during migration they may be seen from time to time.
Cattle Egrets utilize a clever technique of capturing their prey: they perch on the backs of cattle, catching the disturbed prey as the cattle move and disturb the ground.
Cattle Egrets have white bodies with pale orange-brown markings on their heads, necks, and backs. They are tiny, short-necked birds.
Their irises and skin around their eyes are yellow. They have small yellow beaks and greenish-black legs that are short. Males and femen look fairly similar.
During the breeding season, Cattle Egret color changes, becoming more vivid on their legs and face.
Their pale orange patches darken during the breeding season. At the height of their courting, their bills, legs, and irises become bright red, with pinkish-red facial skin (lores).
- Bubulcus ibis
- Length: 19 – 21 in (48 – 53 cm)
- Weight: 17.98 oz (510 g)
- Wingspan: 36 – 38 in (91 – 97 cm)
Cattle Egrets may be found all across the globe, however those in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southern US states remain year-round in North America.
Those, on the other hand, who breed farther north, mostly in the eastern United States, migrate south after breeding.
Cattle Egrets are most common in grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice fields where hoofed animals are present.
They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, although they prefer to stay on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, sporting fields, dumps, and parks are some of the other places where they may be found.
Insects, mainly grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths make up the diet of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, tiny snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish are among the creatures they consume.
Cattle Egret nests are commonly constructed in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in marshes, or on tiny islands. They’re made of sticks and reeds and are usually placed in groups.
The female lays up to nine eggs, which take twenty-five days to hatch. The young take around 45 days to fledge, become completely independent of their parents, and reach adulthood.
Fun Fact: Rather than correcting for light refraction while feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to forage on land by having binocular vision.
12. Little Egret
In Connecticut, Little Egrets are a rare sight, and the species is considered an accidental one. In 2022, however, several sightings were reported in Wallingford, Guilford, and Simsbury.
All-white bodies characterize Little Egrets. Long, thin necks, black beaks, yellow eyes, yellow facial skin (lores), black legs, and yellow feet characterize these birds.
Wispy feathers on the backs of Little Egrets’ heads, neck, and back are visible during the breeding season. At the peak of courtship, their face skin becomes red, and their foot becomes pink or red.
Dark morphs with a blue-gray tone rather than white are also available.
Juveniles have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet, although they appear similar to adults.
- Egretta garzetta
- Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
- Weight: 17.6 oz (499 g)
- Wingspan: 34 – 41 in (86 – 104 cm)
Little Egrets are casual visitors to the United States and Canada, with a typical range of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Little Egrets may be found around wetlands, such as lakeshores, riverbanks, ponds, lagoons, marshes, and canals. However, they will also hunt in fish ponds if they are hungry enough.
Little Egret nests are frequently erected high in the trees or shrubs, in reed beds or mangroves and are constructed of platform sticks. Males locate and transport the building materials, while females do the actual construction.
The female produces six to eight eggs, which the male and female incubate for three weeks. For almost two weeks, both parents look after their infants. After six weeks, they fledge.
Fun Fact: Because of the craze for feathers for fashionable headgear at the time, the Little Egrets were once declared extinct in Ireland and Great Britain.
How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Connecticut In Summer And Winter
Checklists are a useful tool for determining which birds are regularly seen in your area. In Connecticut checklists in the summer and winter, these lists show which herons are most often observed.
Herons in Connecticut in summer:
Great Blue Heron 13.5%
Great Egret 13.5%
Snowy Egret 8.8%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3.7%
Green Heron 3.5%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 2.3%
Little Blue Heron 1.5%
Least Bittern 0.3%
American Bittern 0.2%
Tricolored Heron 0.2%
Cattle Egret 0.1%
Little Egret <0.1%
Herons in Connecticut in winter:
Great Blue Heron 6.5%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.4%
Great Egret 0.4%
American Bittern 0.1%
Snowy Egret <0.1%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron <0.1%
Little Blue Heron <0.1%
Green Heron <0.1%