In Florida, 12 of the 17 species of herons that live throughout North America have been discovered. This guide will teach you about and identify these long-legged birds.
Herons, which feed on both saltwater and freshwater, may be seen peering into your backyard pond for a quick snack.
Nevertheless, many of your fish herons are protected, so a net is your best option when you’re having difficulty.
Herons prefer to hunt alone by standing perfectly still and waiting or by dashing around to get the prey stirring up, thus they often nest in huge colonies known as heronries.
A collection of herons is known by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” and even the term “scattering” herons!
You might want to learn more about the ducks, swans, or pelicans that you may see in Florida if you like seeing waterbirds.
12 Species Of Heron In Florida
1. Great Egret
Great Egrets may be seen throughout the year in Florida, where they are very plentiful. These were seen on 31% of bird watchers’ summer and 38% of their winter checklists for the state.
Males have neon green facial skin and long, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails during breeding season, which they display off like a peacock does with its tail. Great Egrets are at their best during the breeding season.
These are huge, completely white herons that are often referred to as Great White Herons. Common egrets are another name for them. White with dagger-like, long, brilliant yellow beaks and long, black legs and feet, these big birds are imposing.
Males, females, and juveniles of non-breeding species all appear the same.
- Ardea alba
- Length: 37 – 41 in (94 – 104cm)
- Weight: 59.96 oz (1699 g)
- Wingspan: 54 – 55 in (137 – 140 cm)
The worldwide range of Great Egrets is enormous. Those that live in the southern and coastal United States stay there all year, while those who live farther inland go south.
Great Egrets may be found in both freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as fish ponds.
Fish, frogs, small animals, crustaceans, and insects make up the majority of the Great Egret’s diet. Great Egrets, which stand motionless on the water waiting and scouting for their prey before striking and spearing it with their long bills, are among the most spectacular birds you’ll see.
In colonies, Great Egret nests may be found. To keep their nests safe from predators like raccoons, they are frequently placed high up in trees, preferably on islands.
Marsh plant sticks, twigs, and stems are used to make them. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty-five days, which they lay up to six.
Fun Fact: Because of their long white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was practically driven to extinction. They were mainly used to embellish ladies’ hats.
2. Great Blue Heron
In Florida, Great Blue Herons appear in 24% of summer checklists and 33% of winter checklists.
The Great Blue Heron is North America’s largest heron, and it is a large, majestic bird.
They have a white snout with a black plume that stretches from the front of their eyes to the rear of their heads. Their bills are orange-yellow in color.
Their bodies are grayish-blue, and their legs are long and gray. Their necks are long and gray, with black and white streaking in the front.
Their bodies are grayish-blue, and their legs are long and slender. Their necks are long and graying, 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, with the exception of those that breed in the Mid-West and Canada, have Great Blue Herons throughout the year.
In Florida, the Great Blue Heron is split into two subspecies: the Great White Heron and the Little Blue Heron.
Great Blue Herons may be found in a variety of wetland environments. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake edges, and shorelines are all habitats for them.
Fish, frogs, salamanders, shrimps, crabs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other aquatic insects are the primary foods of Great Blue Herons.
While wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. Hovering over water, diving into it, jumping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are all examples of how they may behave.
Great Blue Heron colonies, located high in trees near bodies of water, include nests. Twigs and sticks are lined with softer material to construct the nests.
Great Blue Herons can rebuild and expand their nests over time, resulting in increased nest size.
The female then deposits two to seven eggs. Over four weeks, both parents alternate hatching the eggs.
Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons defend their feeding area with spectacular outstretched wing displays.
3. Little Blue Heron
In Florida, little blue herons may be seen any time of year. Summer checklists have 21% of the items, while winter checklists have 29%.
Little blue herons are far from being tiny. With lengthy, stretched bodies, they’re in the medium to big range. With dangling feathers across the nape, their heads and necks have a purple hue.
During the breeding season, their eyes may turn gray-green. They have two-toned bills that are pale blue or grayish in color with black tips. Slate-blue coloured skin covers their bodies. Long and black to gray-green legs are present.
Before becoming a combination of dark gray, blue, and white, juvenile Little Blue Herons are completely white in appearance during 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 heading south, Little Blue Herons breed in the eastern United States, although they spend the whole year along the Gulf Coast and Mexico.
Little Blue Herons may be found near water, such as in wetlands, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields.
Little Blue Herons may be found around bodies of water, such as swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, and flooded fields.
In comparison to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more elegant manner. They just stand and wait in shallow waters for their prey, rather than rushing around the 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 food rather than dashing about across the water.
Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, mice, and insects make up the Little Blue Heron’s diet. Adults prefer to go alone, while youngsters prefer to mix with other juveniles.
Little Blue Heron nests are constructed of sticks and are frequently found in groups with other herons. Up to six eggs are laid by the female. For up to twenty-four days, both parents share in the incubation.
Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ habit of wearing a white appearance makes them easier to see among Snowy Egrets, allowing them to catch additional fish and bolster their defense against predators.
4. Snowy Egret
In Florida, snowy egrets may be seen any time of year. Summer checklists have 20% of the items, while winter checklists have 24%.
Snowy Egrets are little white herons with the moniker “snowy.” They have long, black bills, long, black legs, and brilliant yellow feet with yellow irises and skin surrounding the eye.
Long, lacy feathers grow on their heads, necks, and backs during the breeding season. During courting, their lores and facial skin turn reddish-pink, while their toes turn orange-red.
Interestingly, during aggressive encounters, these regions of their bodies turn bright red.
Adults and juveniles are comparable, however the juvenile lacks head plumes. Lores and legs are more greenish-yellow, and the colors on their bills and legs are lighter.
- 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 southwest shores, snowy egrets migrate across most of the United States. Throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, they stay throughout the year.
Snowy Egrets can be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries. They prefer shallow wetlands with plenty of water. They prefer marshlands with protective trees and shrubs for nesting.
Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are among the foods sought by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may either sit still and wait for prey to come to them or disturb the water in order for their prey to be easier to catch when it comes to the surface.
Males select Snowy Egret nests. They choose a spot and go on display in order to attract their partners. The males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds when they couple up, while the females construct the nest.
Nesting sites are frequently trees or shrubs on the ground, which are concealed. The female lays two to six eggs, with each parent incubating their own set of eggs. The average incubation period is twenty-four days.
Fun Fact: Because of their gorgeous white head feathers, which were often used as a hat embellishment or accessory, snowy egrets were practically hunted to extinction.
5. Tricolored Heron
Herons in Florida make 18% of the summer and 23% of the winter checklists, which can be found year-round.
Adults that are not breeding have a mix of blue-gray, purple, and white feathers. Their bills are black-tipped and yellowish or greyish in color. Yellow or olive green are the colors of their legs and feet.
Breeding adults also have thin, white feathers extending from the back of their heads, and the base of their bill becomes blue. They also have finer feathers on their necks and back. Their legs also become reddish in color.
The back of the head of breeding adults is likewise covered in thin, white feathers, and the base of their beak turns blue. On their necks and backs, they have more delicate feathers. Their legs, too, turn red in color.
The neck, upper breasts, upper back, and wings of juveniles are more reddish-brown in color.
- 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 may be found all year. Further north along the Atlantic Coast, those that breed migrate south.
Herons in freshwater and brackish marshes, as well as estuaries and coastal tidal pools or swamps, may be found.
Tricolored Herons are fiercely territorial when it comes to food sources. They’ll eat small fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects, and they’ll drive away other wading birds that try to feed on their territory.
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 Herons build nests out of sticks and nest in trees and shrubs in colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, and the parents share in the incubation process, which takes three weeks. The young are also fed by both of them.
Fun Fact: The Tricolored Heron was formerly known as the Louisiana heron because of its dark color and white belly.
6. Cattle Egret
All year in Florida, you can see Cattle Egrets. They appear in 15% of summer checklists and 13% of winter checklists, and they are widespread.
Cattle Egrets capture their meal in a clever way…they stand on the backs of cattle, which causes the cattle to move and disturb the surface.
Cattle Egrets have white bodies and light orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs. They are tiny, short-necked egrets.
Their irises and cheeks are yellow, as is their skin. Their bills are small and greenish-black, and their legs are short. Males and females have a similar appearance.
During the breeding season, Cattle Egret’s color changes and they become more vibrant, particularly on their legs and face.
During the breeding season, their pale orange patches become darker orange. Their bills, legs, and irises become bright red, and facial skin (lores) turn pinkish-red at the height of their courting.
- 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 across the globe, however those in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southern United States states continue to stay throughout the year.
However, following breeding, those that breed further north, primarily in the eastern United States.
Cattle Egrets may be seen in grasslands, pastures, grain fields, and rice fields where hoofed animals are present.
These creatures do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes. They prefer to stay on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are also common places to find them.
They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, while preferring to stay on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are among the 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 among the animals they consume.
Cattle Egret nests are usually found in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in swamps, or on small islands. They are made from sticks and reeds and constructed in colonies.
Females lay up to nine eggs, which they incubate for around twenty-five days. The young take around 45 days to mature, fledge, and completely separate from their parents.
For about twenty-five days, the female lays up to nine eggs and incubates them. The juvenile grows, fledges, and becomes fully independent from their parents over a period of roughly 45 days.
Fun Fact: In order to judge distance and capture prey on land rather than correcting for light refraction while feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to forage on land.
7. Green Heron
Throughout the year, but notably from March to September, Green Herons may be seen in Florida. Summer checklists have 15% of the samples, whereas winter checklists have 9%.
The glossy green-black color of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of Green Herons is what gives them their name, but they look hunched and dark from a distance. You’ll have to get up close to appreciate it.
During the breeding season, their bills turn black, with two-toned dark on top and yellow at the bottom. Their irises and legs become orange as well.
Chestnut or maroon are the colors of their heads, necks, and breasts. The front part of the neck has a white stripe that runs down the length. Gray is the color of their bellies.
Browner with deeper forecaps and a bigger crest, juveniles are unmistakable.
- Butorides virescens
- Length: 18 – 22 in (46 – 56 cm)
- Weight: 9.17 oz (260 g)
- Wingspan: 25 – 26 in (64 – 66 cm)
Before heading south, green herons breed predominantly in the eastern United States and Pacific Coast. Those, however, are permanent across the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Green Herons may be found in marshy bogs, lakes, ponds, and other wet environments with thick vegetation. If there are water sources nearby, they may stay in dry woods or orchards instead of coastal and inland wetlands.
Little fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents make up the Green Heron’s diet. Rather than wading, they usually hunt from shore by perched on sticks over the water.
Little fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents make up the Green Heron’s diet. Instead of wading, they hunt from shore by perched on sticks over the water.
Green Heron nests are built in the treetops over water, but may also be found on the ground, concealed under shrubs. They are made of long, slender twigs.
Females lay two eggs every two days in a 2-day period. The final egg is deposited, and the parents begin to incubate for around twenty days after that. When their eggs hatch, they feed their young.
Fun Facts: Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves are used by green herons to catch their prey, making them one of the few bird species to do so. (Davis and Kushlan, 1994).
8. Black-crowned Night-Heron
In Florida, black-crowned night-herons may be found year-round on the summer and winter checklists, accounting for 5% of each.
The typical image of a heron family member does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Herons. With a shorter bill, neck, and legs than other species, it is stocky.
Black caps coverging a white line above their black bills characterize adult Black-crowned Night-herons.
The lores (area in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, while their eyes are red. The back is darker than the rest of their bodies. 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 become red or pink, as well as the lores turning black.
The overall color of juveniles is a dreary grayish-brown with streaks 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 spans the globe. Before moving south, they breed in the United States and Canada. Along the beaches, some may be found year-round.
In wetland environments such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers, you may see Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to grow them.
Wetland habitats such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are suitable for Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to them.
The males build nests for Black-crowned Night-herons in bushes and trees, which are begun by them in preparation for selecting a mate.
After that, the female will lay up to seven eggs every two days. For approximately twenty-four days after the eggs are placed, both parents begin to incubate them. For approximately three weeks, the parents will look after their infant.
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.
9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
All year, yellow-crowned night-herons may be found in Florida, with the greatest concentration from June to July. Summer checklists have a 5% chance of containing them, whereas winter checklists have a 3% chance.
The crowns of adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons are yellow, with two plumes extending from the heads. Their bills are large, and they’re black. The sides of their skulls behind their eyes are white, while the rest of their skulls are black.
As they grew up, their eyes turned from yellow to orange to red.
Their wings have a scaled pattern and they have gray-blue bodies. During the breeding season, their legs grow long and yellow, then turn coral, pink, or red.
Grayish-brown juveniles acquire white streaks and spots all over their bodies. It takes three years for them to reach adulthood.
- Nyctanassa violacea
- Length: 22 – 28 in (56 – 71 cm)
- Weight: 25.6 oz ( 726 g)
- Wingspan: 42 0 44 in (107 – 112 cm)
Before moving south, yellow-crowned nightherons breed mostly 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 water, and large edges where to feed, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons at dawn and dusk.
Crustaceans like crabs and crayfish make up the majority of Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ diets. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rodents, and birds are among the animals they consume. Little prey can be devoured instantly by them.
Crabs are frequently sliced open and dismembered.
Little, loose colonies of Yellow-crowned Night-herons are common, yet they always construct nests near water. Both parents make nests out of soft sticks and twigs gathered from grass, leaves, or moss.
After that, she lays up to eight eggs and coops them for about three weeks. Chicks are fed by regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge after around a month and can fly on their own at fifty days old.
Fun Fact: The eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, which is fatal to horses and people, can be carried by Yellow-crowned Night-herons.
10. Reddish Egret
In Florida, Reddish Egrets are a vulnerable species, but they spend the whole year here. Summer and winter checklists include them in 3% of their lists.
This is one of the greatest birds to observe due to Reddish Egrets’ dark pink and grayish-blue tones and frantic activity in order to capture fish.
They are actually available in dark and light variants, although white variants are uncommon. They are often referred to as Reddish Egrets.
The bodies, necks, and breasts of dark morph Reddish Egrets are blue-gray. Pink with a black tip, their bills are easy to spot.
The bodies of white morphs are completely white. Their eyes are straw yellow, and their skin (lores) is deeper around their legs and feet. They both have blue-black legs and feet.
White morphs have totally white bodies. They have blue-black legs and feet, as well as straw yellow eyes with darker skin around (lores).
The bodies of white morphs are completely devoid of color. Their eyes are straw yellow, and their skin around (lores) is darker, while their legs and feet are blue-black.
Adults may mate with either morph, but juveniles are also dark or white.
- Egretta rufescens
- Length: 27 – 32 in (69 – 81 cm)
- Weight: 15.9 oz (451 g)
- Wingspan: 46 in (117 cm)
The Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Mexico, as well as northern South America, are home to Reddish Egrets all year.
In open marine flats and beaches, you may see Reddish Egrets. Marshes, shallow bays, and lagoons are also home to them.
Reddish Egrets are mostly solitary birds that forage and feed. In order to catch fish, they cross shallow flooded flats. They stab fish with their beaks as soon as they’ve scared them up.
Reddish Egret nests are frequently found in colonies, with both parents contributing to the construction. Protected islands with nearby feeding areas are their usual habitats.
The female lays seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents for twenty-five days. Even after they leave the nest, they will feed their young for up to nine weeks and care for them until they are adults.
Fun Fact: The male will perform a head toss display and beak snapping during mating, puffing out his feathers and standing out on his head, neck, and back.
11. Least Bittern
In Florida, least bitterns may be seen at any time of year, however their numbers rise from March to September. Summer checklists include them in 3% of the time.
In the Americas, the Least Bitterns are the tiniest herons, and they can be heard before seeing them in the reeds.
Their yellow beak is dark, and they are brown and white hues with a black crown and top. They grip the reeds with their claws and toes, which are quite long.
Younger females and children have lighter backs and crowns than males.
Females and juveniles have lighter backs and crowns, but they are similar to males.
- 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 extends from Europe to Africa, although they have been known to stray north.
In dense freshwater and brackish marshlands, with many tall cattails and reeds, you may locate Least Bitterns. Search among the reeds for them as they perch.
They’ll immediately freeze stiff, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in sync with the reeds when they perceive danger.
Least Bitterns’ diet includes small fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and sometimes, mice. They position themselves on the reeds, sometimes performing acrobatic contortions just to reach their prey on the surface of the water.
The female of the Least Bittern constructs well-concealed nests out of cattail and marsh plant material. She deposits up to seven eggs, which are tended to by both parents for around twenty days. They then regurgitate food for the newly hatched chicks.
Fun Fact: The necks of least bitterns are long, although they usually remain bent.
12. American Bittern
Between October and March, American Bitterns can be found in Florida, accounting for 2% of checklists at the time.
In the spring of the American Bittern, if you’re lucky, you may hear their peculiar watery boom cries long before they are visible. Below are some of the samples you can see.
The Heron family of birds includes American Bitterns, which are chunky, medium-sized birds.
Because of their brown striped and mottled patterning, as well as their ability to stay motionless amid the reeds with their head tilted up, they appear like 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 heading to the Gulf Coast and Mexico, American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states.
Shallow, freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds are virtually always home to American Bitterns.
To locate them, keep your eyes on the banks of lakes and ponds amid the heavy vegetation.
Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They wait quietly and motionlessly in the reeds, waiting for their victim to get closer before leaping out quickly to capture them in their beaks.
The waterside, amid thick vegetation, are home to American Bittern nests. Females select a nest site and construct it with whatever reeds, sedges, cattails, or other plants they can find.
They incubate for about twenty-six days and lay up to seven eggs. The females feed the chicks straight into their beaks when they are born. They leave the nest after two weeks and reach maturity in six to seven weeks.
They incubate seven eggs for around twenty-six days, laying them up to seven times. The females feed the chicks straight into their beaks when they are born. They leave the nest after two weeks, and it takes six to seven weeks for them to be fully fledged.
Fun Fact: American Bitterns sway gently from side to side, much like the reeds that conceal them.
Checklists are a very useful method of learning which birds you may expect in your area. In the summer and winter of Florida, these lists show which herons are most often seen on ebird checklists.
Herons in Florida in summer:
Great Egret 31.6%
Great Blue Heron 24.0%
Little Blue Heron 21.4%
Snowy Egret 20.5%
Tricolored Heron 18.3%
Green Heron 15.6%
Cattle Egret 15.0%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 5.2%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 5.0%
Reddish Egret 3.6%
Least Bittern 3.0%
American Bittern <0.1%
Herons in Florida in winter:
Great Egret 38.0%
Great Blue Heron 33.7%
Little Blue Heron 29.0%
Snowy Egret 24.4%
Tricolored Heron 23.3%
Cattle Egret 13.8%
Green Heron 9.4%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 5.6%
Reddish Egret 3.6%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 3.2%
American Bittern 2.0%
Least Bittern 0.7%