12 Herons In Georgia (ID, Photos, When To Spot)

Georgia has seen 12 of the 17 species of herons that live in North America on a regular basis. This guide will teach you about and identify these long-legged birds.

Herons, which can be found in saltwater, freshwater, or even in your backyard pond for a quick snack, are water-loving birds.

Yet, many of your fish herons are protected, thus a net is the most effective weapon if you’re having difficulty.

Herons often nest in large colonies called heronries but tend to hunt alone by standing perfectly still and waiting or by dashing about to stir up the prey.

Herons normally nest in large colonies known as heronries, although they prefer to hunt alone by standing motionless and waiting or by dashing about to attract the prey.

A group of herons is referred to by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” “siege,” and the like!

You should learn more about the ducks, swans, and pelicans you may see here if you enjoy spotting waterbirds in Georgia.

12 Species Of Heron In Georgia


1. Great Blue Heron

In Georgia, Great Blue Herons may be seen throughout the year and are very common. They’re seen on 15% of bird watchers’ summer and winter checklists for the state, according to the Maryland Bird Watcher’s Association.

The biggest heron native to North America, Great Blue Herons are massive and majestic birds.

Their face is white, and their crest or plume extends from the front of their eyes to the back of their heads. Their bills are orange-yellow in color.

The front of their necks are streaked with black and white, and their bodies are grayish-blue. Their legs are long gray.

  • 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 those that breed in the Mid-West and Canada migrate south during the winter.

In Florida, the Great White Heron is a white morph of the Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Herons may be found in a variety of wetland environments. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake borders, and seashore are all possible habitats for them.

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 catch their prey. Hovering over water, diving into the water, leaping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are also possible.

Great Blue Heron colonies may be found near bodies of water, at heights up in trees. Twigs and sticks are used to build the nests, which are lined with softer material.

Since Great Blue Herons rebuild and add to their nests over time, their nests may grow in size as a result of this.

After that, the female deposits two to seven eggs. Over the course of four weeks, both parents incubate the eggs.

Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons defend their feeding ground with dramatic extended-wing displays.

2. Great Egret

Throughout Georgia, Great Egrets may be seen at any time of year. They’re found in 10% of summer and winter checklists and are seen all year.

When males have neon green facial skin and long, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails, Great Egrets are at their best during the breeding season.

They’re sometimes known as Great White Herons because of their huge size and all-white color. Common egrets are another name for them. These massive birds have long, black legs and feet and dagger-like, long, bright yellow beaks.

Mature, non-breeding males, and females have the same appearance.

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

The range of Great Egrets extends across the globe. Those in the southern and seaside states endure throughout the year, but those farther inland migrate south during the winter.

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 diet. You may observe Great Egrets waiting and scouting their meal on the water, then striking and spearing it with their long beaks.

Great Egret colonies have nests. To safeguard the nests from predators such as raccoons, they are usually put high up in trees, preferably on islands.

Sticks, twigs, and marsh plant stems were used to make them. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty-five days, which are laid by females up to six.

Fun Fact: Because of their long white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was almost hunted to extinction.

3. Snowy Egret

From July through October, snowy egrets may be seen in Georgia every year. Summer checklists have a 5% chance, whereas winter checklists have a 3% chance.

The little, all-white herons known as snowy egrets are named for the snowy Egret. They feature long, black bills, long, black legs, and brilliant yellow feet with yellow irises and skin surrounding their eyes.

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

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

Adults and juveniles have head plumes, but juveniles do not. Their lores and legs are more greenish-yellow, and their bills and legs are lighter 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 across most of the United States. Throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, they stay all year.

Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries throughout shallow wetland habitats. They prefer swampland with protective trees and shrubs for nesting.

Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may rest quietly until prey comes to them or they can agitate the water so that their prey is easier to capture while they wait.

Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are among the foods hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They might remain stationary and wait for prey to come to them, or they might stir the water in order for their prey to surface so that it would be simpler for them to catch.

Males choose the nests of Snowy Egrets. They choose a spot and parade about for their companions. Males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds to the females as they pair up and begin constructing the nest.

Nests are most commonly found in trees or low-lying shrubs. Both parents incubate their eggs, which the female lays two to six. The incubation period is usually twenty-four days.

Nesting sites are commonly found in trees or shrubs on the ground. The female lays two to six eggs, with both parents spending equal amounts of time incubating them. The incubation period is normally twenty-four days.

Fun Fact: Because of their lovely white head feathers, which were ideal for women’s headgear, snowy egrets were almost hunted to extinction.

4. Little Blue Heron

From July through August, Little Blue Herons may be seen in Georgia throughout the year. Summer checklists have them at 5%, while winter checklists have them at 2%.

Little Blue Herons aren’t that small after all. With long, stretched bodies, they range in size from medium to big. Their heads and necks are adorned with fluttering feathers, giving them a purple color.

During the breeding season, their eyes become gray-green, which are light yellow. Two-toned – pale blue or grayish with black tips – their long, dagger-like bills are two-toned. Slate-blue is the color of their flesh. Long and dark to green in color, their legs are long.

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

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

These along the Gulf Coast and Mexico into South America remain throughout the year, while Little Blue Herons breed in eastern US states before moving south.

Little Blue Herons may be found near water, in swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields.

In comparison to other herons, little blue herons forage in a more elegant manner. They don’t run about through the water, but rather wait in shallow waters for their prey to come to them.

Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, mice, and insects make up the Little Blue Heron’s diet. Adults forage alone, whereas juveniles prefer to coexist with other youngsters.

Little Blue Heron nests are built of sticks and are typically 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 have white coloring that enables them to capture more fish and offer additional protection against predators, thus they can be found among Snowy Egrets.

5. Green Heron

From March through October, Green Herons can be found throughout Georgia, with an average of 8% of summer checklists. Nonetheless, they can be found across the state throughout the year.

The glossy green-black coloring of their crowns, crests, backs, and wings makes them look like they’re hunchbacked and dark from a distance. You need to get a closer look to see this.

Throughout the breeding season, their bills become black, with a two-toned top and a yellow bottom. Their iris and legs become orange in color as well.

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

Chestnut or maroon colored feathers cover their heads, necks, and breasts. A white stripe runs down the length of their neck, down the middle. Gray is the hue of their bellies.

Browner with blacker caps and a crest, juveniles are more obvious.

  • 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 predominantly in the eastern United States and the Pacific Coast. Those, however, may be seen all year along the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Green Herons may be found in wet environments with deep vegetation, such as marshes, bogs, 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. Rather of wading, they hunt from the shore by perched on sticks over the water.

Green Heron nests are built in the trees over water, but they may also be placed on the ground, disguised under brush. They’re formed of long, thin twigs.

Females lay two to six eggs every two days, in a 2-day pattern. Both parents begin incubating after the final egg has been deposited, which takes around twenty days. When the eggs are hatched, they both feed their children.

Fun Facts:  Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves, are used by Green Herons to catch their prey. (Davis and Kushlan, 1994) is one of the few bird species that does so.

6. Tricolored Heron

During the summer and winter checklists, tricolored herons can be found in southern Georgia. They appear in 2% of the lists.

The white belly and neck stripe distinguishes Tricolored Herons from other herons.

Adults that are not breeding have a mix of blue-gray, purple, and white feathers. 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 and the base of the beak of breeding adults become blue, as well as thin, white feathers. Their necks and back feathers are also finer. The color of their legs also changes to red.

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)

Herons of different colors may be seen all year in the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and northern South America. Those that breed farther north migrate south along the Atlantic Coast.

In freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps, you may find Tricolored Herons.

Tricolored Herons, which are solitary feeders, guard their meal sites. Other wading birds that want to eat small fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects will be chased away from their area by them.

They’re going to be stalking, chasing, standing, and waiting for their victim. Before striking, they crouch low in the water with their bellies touching the surface and their necks drawn in.

Tricolored Heron nests are constructed from sticks and erected in tree and shrub colonies. The female deposits three to five eggs, and both parents participate in the incubation process, which takes three weeks before the eggs hatch. They both feed their little ones as well.

Fun Fact: The Louisiana heron, or Tricolored Heron, is the only dark-colored heron with a white belly. It was formerly known as the Tricolored Heron.

7. Cattle Egret

Cattle Egrets are seen in 4% of summer checklists and may be found in Georgia from March to November. Yet, several stay in the state throughout the year.

From March to November, Cattle Egrets are present in Georgia for the breeding season, accounting for 4% of summer checklists. Several, on the other hand, stay in the state all year.

Cattle Egrets use a clever method of capturing their meal…they stand on the backs ofanimals and capture the fleeing prey whenthe animals move and upset the earth.

White bodies and pale orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs characterize Cattle Egrets, which are small, short-necked egrets.

Throughout the breeding season, Cattle Egret feathers change color and become more visible, particularly on their legs and face.

Their pale orange markings turn darker orange during the breeding season. At the height of their courting, their bills, legs, and irises become bright red, and their face 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)

The range of Cattle Egrets extends across the globe, however those in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southern US states stay throughout the year.

Breeders, on the other hand, migrate south after breeding if they breed further north, primarily in eastern US states.

Cattle Egrets are most common in grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice fields where there is hoofed livestock.

They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, despite their preference for staying on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are all places where they may be found.

Insects, primarily grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths are the main diet of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, small snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish are among the other foods they consume.

Cattle Egret nests are generally constructed in forests near lakes or rivers, in marshes, or on minor islands, and are created of sticks and reeds.

The female lays nine eggs, which are incubated for around twenty-five days by the male. The young take roughly 45 days to grow, fledge, and become completely self-sufficient from their parents.

Fun Fact: The Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to forage on land because of their binocular vision, which allows them to see distance and capture prey on land rather than in water.

8. Black-crowned Night-Heron

In Georgia, black-crowned night-herons can be found on both summer and winter checklists, accounting for 1% of each.

The usual description 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 most other birds.

Black caps cover the black bills of adult Black-crowned Night-herons, which extend from a white line above.

Their lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, and their eyes are red. These have a lighter back than the rest of their body. They have yellow legs and feet.

The head and back of the male turn glossy blue-green during the breeding season, with two or three white feathers appearing on the crown. Legs and feet become red or pink, and the lores also turn black.

The overall color of juveniles is dull 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 worldwide range of Black-crowned Night-herons is vast. Before migrating south, they breed in the United States and Canada. Along the coasts, some may be found year-round.

In dampland environments such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers, you may spot Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to house them.

In preparation for selecting their mates, Black-crowned Night-heron males build nests in bushes or trees.

The female will lay seven eggs at two-day intervals after that. For roughly twenty-four days, both parents begin to incubate the eggs that have just been laid. Over the next three weeks, the parents will look after their children.

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

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

In Georgia, all year except during the months of April and mid-October, some Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are spotted. Summer checklists include 1% of these items.

Yellow crowns with two plumes protruding from their heads characterize adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons. They have huge black bills. The sides of their heads below their eyes are covered in a little white patch.

As they grew up, their eyes changed from yellow to orange to red.

Their wings have a scaled pattern and they are gray-blue in color. During the breeding season, their legs grow longer and turn coral, pink, or red.

Immature juveniles are greyish-brown with white streaks and specks. 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 traveling south, yellow-crowned night-herons breed mostly in the southern United States. Throughout the year, they can be found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

In coastal regions with a high concentration of crustaceans, shallow water, and good places to feed, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons at daybreak and dusk.

Crabs and crayfish make up the majority of Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ diet. Fish, inanimals, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rodents, and birds are also eaten by them. Small prey can be devoured instantly by them.

Crabs are often butchered or stabbed through their bodies.

Little, loose colonies of Yellow-crowned Night-herons are common, but they always build nests near water. Both parents construct the nests out of soft sticks and twigs gathered from grass, leaves, or moss.

After that, she deposits up to eight eggs, which they jointly incubate for three weeks. The chicks are fed regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge after about a month and are able to fly on their own at fifty days.

Fun Fact: The eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, which is deadly to horses and humans, can be carried by the yellow-crowned night-heron.

10. American Bittern

While migrating, American Bitterns are fairly frequent in Georgia, although they are seldom seen.

In the spring of the American Bittern, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the odd watery boom calls before they even arrive. Below are some examples of them.

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

Because of their brown striped and mottled patterning and the ability to stay motionless amid the reeds with their head tilted up, they resemble the reeds they hide in.

They possess short legs and yellow eyes that turn orange during courtship.

  • 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.

In shallow, freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds, you can find American Bitterns virtually exclusively.

Look for them along the margins of lakes and ponds, amid the rough vegetation.

Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They wait motionlessly and quietly among the reeds, stalking their prey until they get closer, when they spring forward swiftly to capture them in their bills.

American Bitterns’ nests can be found amid rough vegetation on the water. Using available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other vegetation, females select a nest location and construct it themselves.

They lay seven eggs, which take around twenty-six days to develop. 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 developed.

Fun Fact: Like the reeds that conceal them to hide themselves, American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side.

11. Least Bittern

From March through October, least bitterns may be seen in Georgia, particularly around the south of the state. They are not particularly common here.

In the reeds, you may hear Least Bitterns before you see them, as they are the smallest herons in the Americas.

Their beaks are yellow, and they have brown and white hues. Their caps and crests are dark. 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’ normal range is Europe and Africa, although they may wander as far north as Canada on occasion.

Least Bitterns may be found in thick water and brackish marshlands, where there are several tall cattails and reeds. When they perched on reeds, look for them.

They will immediately freeze up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in time with the reeds if they sense danger.

Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and occasionally mice are among the foods of least Bitterns. They sit on the reeds, doing acrobatic contortions in order to reach their prey on the water’s surface.

The female of Least Bitterns creates well-concealed platforms out of cattails and marsh vegetation for her nests. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty days, which she lays up to seven of. They then use their regurgitation to feed newly hatched chicks.

Fun Fact: Long necked Least Bitterns are often stooping in posture.

12. Reddish Egret

In Georgia, Reddish Egrets are a near-threatened species, and they can be seen throughout the year.

In terms of being one of the greatest birds to observe, Reddish Egrets have dark pink and grayish-blue tones with a lot of energy in their movements.

Reddish Egrets come in dark and light morphs, but white morphs are uncommon. They are also known as Reddish Egrets.

Blue-gray bodies, cinnamon-toned heads, necks, and breasts distinguish dark morph Reddish Egrets. Pink with a black tip, their bills are quite striking.

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

Adults may mate with both morphs, whether juveniles are black 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, Reddish Egrets may be found year-round.

Open marine flats and beaches are good places to look for Reddish Egrets. Marshes, shallow bays, and lagoons are also home to them.

Reddish Egrets are mostly solitary birds that forage and eat. In order to catch fish, they cross shallow, flooded flats. They stab fish with their beaks as soon as they’re successful in frightening them up.

Reddish Egret nests are often found in colonies, with both parents constructing a stick platform. They’re usually found on islands with nearby feeding grounds.

Both parents take twenty-five days to incubate the female’s seven eggs. Even after they leave the nest, they’ll care for their young and feed them for up to nine weeks.

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

How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Georgia In Summer And Winter

Checklists are a wonderful way to figure out which birds are frequent in your state. On checklists in Georgia during the summer and winter, these lists show which herons are most often seen.

Herons in Georgia in summer:

Great Blue Heron 14.8%

Great Egret 10.5%

Green Heron 8.5%

Little Blue Heron 5.6%

Snowy Egret 5.0%

Cattle Egret 4.6%

Tricolored Heron 2.3%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1.5%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 1.0%

Least Bittern 0.6%

Reddish Egret 0.2%

American Bittern <0.1%

Herons in Georgia in winter:

Great Blue Heron 15.9%

Great Egret 9.5%

Snowy Egret 3.6%

Little Blue Heron 2.3%

Tricolored Heron 1.9%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 1.3%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 0.5%

Green Heron 0.2%

Cattle Egret 0.2%

American Bittern 0.2%

Reddish Egret 0.1%

Least Bittern <0.1%

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