In Idaho, six of the seventeen species of herons that live in North America have been observed. There are five more that are uncommon or unintentional. This article will assist you identify and understand more about these long-legged birds.
Herons, which may be found in both salt and freshwater, as well as at your own pond for a quick snack, are water-loving birds.
However, many of your fish herons are protected, so if you’re having trouble catching them, a net is your best option.
Herons are often seen hunting alone, standing totally still and waiting or dashing about to attract the prey, in large colonies known as heronries.
The term “rookery,” for example, refers to a collection of herons, while the term “battery,” refers to a group of herons.
You may learn more about the ducks, swans, or pelicans you may see in Idaho if you like seeing waterbirds.
11 Species Of Heron In Idaho
1. Great Blue Heron
In Idaho, Great Blue Herons can be seen throughout the year and are ubiquitous. They were seen in 13% of the state’s summer and winter bird watcher checklists.
The largest heron native to North America, Great Blue Herons are enormous, majestic birds.
From the front of their eyes to the back of their heads, they have a white face with a black crest or plume. Yellow-orangish is the color of their bills.
Its bodies are grayish-blue, and their legs are long and gray. They have lengthy 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 throughout the year, although those that breed in the Mid-West and Canada migrate south during the winter.
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 habitats. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake borders, and beaches are all possible habitats for them.
Fish, frogs, salamanders, shrimps, crabs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other aquatic insects make up Great Blue Herons’ primary diet.
While wading or standing in water, they can capture their prey. Hovering above water, diving under it, leaping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are some of their other abilities.
When wading or standing in water, they may capture their prey. They can also fly into the water, leap feet-first from perches, or float on the water’s surface.
Great Blue Heron colonies are situated high in the trees near to water, where they build nests. Twigs and sticks are used to build the nests, which are then lined with softer material.
Great Blue Herons have the ability to refurbish and expand their nests over time, resulting in them becoming bigger.
After that, the female lays two to seven eggs. For roughly four weeks, both parents incubate the eggs at the same time.
Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons protect their feeding grounds with magnificent outstretched wings.
2. Great Egret
Great Egrets may be seen throughout Idaho all year, but their numbers peak between April and Octhroughber. Summer checklists include them at a rate of 2%.
When males have neon green face skin and lengthy, silky feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails, Great Egrets are at their best during the breeding season.
They’re called Great White Herons because they’re huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are another name for them. These huge birds feature long, slender black legs and feet, as well as dagger-like, long bills.
Males, females, and juveniles of non-breeding age all have the same appearance.
Males, females, and juveniles of non-breeding age all 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 coastal United States dwell 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 Egrets’ diet. Great Egrets stand motionless on the water, waiting and spying on their prey before striking and spearing it with their long bills, which you may see.
Great Egret colonies have nests. To keep their nests safe from predators like raccoons, they are usually placed high up in trees, ideally on islands.
Stick, twig, and stem materials from marsh plants have been used to make them. Females lay up to six eggs, and both parents incubate them for around twenty-five days.
Fun Fact: Because of their long white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was nearly hunted to extinction.
3. Black-crowned Night-Heron
From April through mid-October, black-crowned night-herons are most prevalent in Idaho, however they may be seen all year. Summer checklists account for 2% of all checklists.
The typical description of the heron family does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or just Night Herons. It has a shorter bill, neck, and legs than other species.
Black caps extend from a white line above the black bills of adult Black-crowned Night-herons.
The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, and their eyes are red. The bottom is white, but the back is black. They have yellow legs and feet.
The head and back of the bird become glossy blue-green during 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 drab grayish-brown with streaking and/or spotting.
- 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 extends across the globe. They breed in the United States and Canada before migrating south in North America. Around the coasts, some may be found year-round.
Wetland habitats such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are good places to look for Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats like reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to grow them.
Black-crowned Night-herons are night feeders who consume whatever they can find, such as crayfish, fish, and even turtles or worms.
Male black-crowned night-herons build nests in bushes or trees in preparation for identifying their mates.
After that, the female will lay two or seven eggs every two days. For around twenty-four days, both parents begin to incubate the eggs that have been laid. Over the next 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 population of Black-crowned Night-herons during the summer.
4. Snowy Egret
From April to October, Snowy Egrets may be seen in Idaho during the breeding season.
Snowy Egrets, as their name suggests, are small, all-white herons. They have yellow irises and skin around their eye, long, black bills, long, black legs, and bright yellow feet.
Little, all-white herons known as snowy egrets. Their irises are yellow, and their skin is around their eyes is long and black. Their beaks are long and black, as are their legs.
Their heads, necks, and backs take on lengthy, lacy feathers during the breeding season. During courting, their lores or faces turn reddish-pink, and their toes become orange-red.
During confrontational situations, these parts of their bodies become bright red as well.
Juveniles have head plumes, but they aren’t as grown up. Their lores and legs are brighter, with a more greenish-yellow color scheme on their bills and legs.
- 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 US states. In Mexico, Central, and South America, they may be found all year.
Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries. These shallow wetlands are ideal for them. Swamp woodlands with safe trees and plants are their favorite nesting habitat.
Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries. They prefer shallow, damp environments. They like wetlands with protective trees and vegetation for nesting.
Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are all hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may rest quietly until prey comes to them, or they may agitate the water by bringing their prey to the surface.
Snowy Egret males select their breeding sites. They choose a spot and parade it until they attract their partners. The males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds while the females construct the nest when they couple up.
Nesting locations vary from trees to shrubs on the ground. Both parents alternate incubating their eggs after the female lays two to six eggs. The incubation period is normally twenty-four days.
Fun Fact: Because of their beautiful white head feathers, snowy egrets were on the verge of extinction. They were nearly hunted down due to their usage as a hat decoration or accessory.
5. American Bittern
Throughout the summer, from April to September, American Bitterns may be seen in Idaho.
In the spring of the American Bittern, you might hear the odd watery boom calls before you see them, if you’re lucky. Below are a few samples of what you can expect from us.
The Heron family includes American Bitterns, which are chunky, medium-sized birds.
Because of their brown striped and mottled patterning, as well as their capacity to stay immobile amid the reeds with their head tilted up, they resemble the reeds they hide in.
They have short legs and a yellow appearance that changes to orange during courtship.
- 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 home to American Bitterns nearly exclusively.
To discover them, keep your eyes on the edges of lakes and ponds amid the rough vegetation.
Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They hunt quietly among the reeds, remaining motionless and quiet as they wait for their victim to approach and then lunge forward swiftly to devour them.
On the water, among coarse vegetation, you may find nests of American Bitterns. Females select a nesting location and construct it themselves using available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other plants.
They lay seven eggs, which take around twenty-six days to hatch. The females feed the chicks through regurgitation straight into their beaks when they are hatched. They fled the nest after two weeks and are fully grown after six to seven weeks.
Fun Fact: Just like the reeds that conceal them, American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side.
6. Cattle Egret
From April to September, Cattle Egrets may be seen in Idaho, but they are not particularly frequent.
Cattle Egrets utilize a clever technique of catching their meal…they stand on the backs of cattle, catching the startled prey as the cattle graze and dislodge the soil.
Cattle Egrets have white bodies with pale orange-brown markings on their heads, necks, and backs. They are tiny, short-necked egrets.
Cattle Egrets are little white-bodied, pale orange-brown patchheaded egrets with short necks and short necks.
Their irises and face are yellow, as is their skin. They have greenish-black legs and a small, yellow beak. Males and females have a lot in common look-wise.
Cattle Egrets’ color changes with the season, becoming brighter on their legs and face while they are mating.
Their pale orange patches darken during the breeding season. During 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)
Cattle Egrets may be found all year round in Mexico’s Gulf Coast and the southwestern United States, as well as throughout North America.
Breeding, on the other hand, is done farther north, particularly in eastern US states.
Cattle Egrets can be found in native grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice paddies where hoofed animals are present.
They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, even though 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 are the main foods of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, small snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish are also eaten by them.
Cattle Egret nests are mostly constructed in woods near lakes or rivers, on small islands, or in marshes. They are made of sticks and reeds and are built in colonies.
Females lay up to nine eggs, which they incubate for roughly twenty-five days. The juvenile takes roughly 45 days to develop, fledge, and become fully self-sufficient from their parents.
Fun Fact: Rather than correcting for light refraction while eating in water, the Cattle Egret has binocular vision to judge distance while foraging on land.
7. Green Heron
In Idaho, Green Herons are either a uncommon or an accidental species, although they have been observed during migration and winter.
The glossy green-black sheen of their crowns, crests, backs, and wings attracts the name Green Herons, but they appear hunchbacked and dark from afar. You’ll need to get a closer look to see this.
During the breeding season, their bills turn black, which are two-toned, dark on top and yellow on bottom. Their irises and legs, too, become orange as they age.
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 top. Gray is the color of their bellies.
Browner and with a higher crest than adults, juveniles have browner caps.
- 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 mostly in the eastern United States and the Pacific Coast. The Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and Mexico, on the other hand, are permanent.
Swamps, marshes, lakes, ponds, and other damp environments with thick vegetation are home to Green Herons. They may stay in dry woods or orchards if there are water sources nearby, despite preferring coastal and inland wetlands.
Little fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rats make up the Green Heron’s diet. Instead of wading, they hunt from the shore by perched on sticks over the water.
Green Heron nests are built in the treetops over water, but they may also be placed on the ground, hidden under shrubs. They are formed of long, thin twigs.
Females lay two eggs every two days, in a 2-day cycle. The final egg is deposited, and both parents begin incubating immediately. It takes around twenty days for them to complete it. When their eggs hatch, both of them feed their young.
Fun Facts: Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves, is used by Green Herons to catch prey. (Davis and Kushlan, 1994) This is one of the few bird species that uses tools for foraging.
8. Little Blue Heron
In Idaho, Little Blue Herons are an uncommon but accidental species. They were last seen in Boise in 2015.
Little Blue Herons aren’t really that tiny! They have long, extended bodies and are medium to large in size. With dangling feathers across the nape, their heads and necks have a purplish hue.
During the breeding season, their eyes may turn gray-green, which is a pale yellow color. Two-toned – pale blue or grayish with black tips – their long, dagger-like bills are two-toned. Slate-blue skin covers their skins. Their legs are black to gray-green and are quite long.
Until they reach their second year, juvenile Little Blue Herons are completely white and turn dark gray, blue, and white.
- 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 the eastern US states, but all year round in the Gulf Coast and Mexico.
Little Blue Herons may be found around bodies of water, such as swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches and fish hatcheries.
Compared to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more graceful manner. They simply 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. Adults prefer to go off by themselves, while juveniles prefer to remain in mixed groups.
Little Blue Heron nests are made of sticks and are generally found in groups with other herons. The female can lay up to six eggs. The incubation period is up to twenty-four days, shared by both parents.
Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ presence among Snowy Egrets allows them to capture more fish and gain extra protection from predators because of their white coloring.
9. Tricolored Heron
In Idaho, Tricolored Herons are an uncommon sight. They were last seen in 2009 in Boise, and they are extremely rare in Idaho.
The white belly and neck stripe of a Tricolored Heron distinguishes it from other herons.
Adults that are not breeding have a blend of blue-gray, purple, and white feathers. Their bills have a black tip and are yellowish or greyish. Yellow or olive green coloration covers their legs and feet.
Adults have thin, bleached feathers extending from the back of their heads, and their beaks turn blue as a result of breeding. Their necks and backs are also covered with finer feathers. Their legs, too, turn crimson in color.
The neck, upper breasts, upper back, and wings of juveniles are browner than those of adults.
- Egretta tricolor
- Length: 24 – 26 in (61 – 66 cm)
- Weight: 14.6 oz (414 g)
- Wingspan: 36 in (91 cm)
In the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and northern South America, tricolored herons stay throughout the year. Those breeding 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.
Tricolored Herons are territorial when it comes to food sources and will defend them. Other wading birds that want to feed in their area and like tiny fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects will be driven away.
stalking, chasings, standing, and waiting for their victim are all expected behaviors from them. Before striking, they crouch low in the water, with their bellies resting on the surface and their necks pulled in.
Tricolored Heron nests are constructed of sticks and take place in trees and shrubs, forming colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents spend three weeks incubating the eggs before they hatch. The youngsters 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.
10. Least Bittern
In Idaho, Least Bitterns are considered an accidental species, and only in 2005 were they spotted near Camas National Wildlife Refuge.
In the reeds, you may hear Less Bitterns before you see them, because they are the smallest herons in the Americas.
Their yellow beak has a black top and cap, which are shades of brown and white. They grip the reeds with their claws and long toes.
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 Little Bitterns usually stay in Europe and Africa, but they may occasionally migrate to North America.
Least Bitterns may be found nesting in thick freshwater and brackish marshlands, amid numerous high cattails and reeds. When they perch on reeds, look for them.
They’ll immediately stiffen up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway with the reeds when they sense danger.
Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and occasionally mice make up the diet of Least Bitterns. They lie down among the reeds, sometimes twisting themselves upside down just to grab their prey on the surface of the water.
Female Less Bitterns construct well-concealed nests from cattails and marsh plants, which are well-concealed platforms. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty days, which she deposits up to seven. They subsequently vomit food to feed newly hatched chicks.
Fun Fact: The necks of least bitterns are rather long, and they remain in a hunchbacked stance.
11. Reddish Egret
In Idaho, Redsh Egrets are a curiosity. They are very unusual in the state, having not been seen for many years.
Reddish Egrets have some of the most beautiful colors in birds, with dusky pink and grayish-blue hues that are energetic.
They are really dark and light morphs of Reddish Egrets, although white morphs are uncommon.
The bodies, heads, necks, and breasts of dark morph Reddish Egrets are blue-gray. Pink with a black tip, their bills are easy to spot.
White morphs have completely white bodies. Their eyes are straw yellow, and their skin (lores) is darker around their legs and feet. They also have blue-black legs and feet.
Adults will mate with either morph, and juveniles are likewise dark or white.
- Egretta rufescens
- Length: 27 – 32 in (69 – 81 cm)
- Weight: 15.9 oz (451 g)
- Wingspan: 46 in (117 cm)
In the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Mexico through northern South America, Reddish Egrets may be found 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 eat and forage alone in most cases. In order to catch fish, they sprint across shallow flooded flats. They stab fish in the beaks as soon as they are successful in frightening them up.
Reddish Egret nests are frequently found in colonies, and both parents construct a stick platform for the young. They are frequently found in small, protected islands with nearby feeding grounds.
Both parents incubate the female’s eggs, which take twenty-five days to hatch. When they leave the nest, they keep an eye on their youngsters and feed them for up to nine weeks.
Fun Fact: The male will do a head toss display and beak snapping during mating, when his feathers puff out and stand out on his head, neck, and back.
How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Idaho In Summer And Winter
Checklists are a handy way to discover which birds are prevalent in your region. During summer and winter in Idaho, these lists show which herons are most often seen on ebird checklists.
Herons in Idaho in summer:
Great Blue Heron 13.3%
Great Egret 2.4%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1.9%
Snowy Egret 0.7%
American Bittern 0.4%
Cattle Egret 0.1%
Green Heron <0.1%
Little Blue Heron <0.1%
Least Bittern <0.1%
Tricolored Heron <0.1%
Reddish Egret <0.1%
Herons in Idaho in winter:
Great Blue Heron 12.4%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.9%
Great Egret 0.5%
Green Heron <0.1%
Snowy Egret <0.1%
American Bittern <0.1%
Tricolored Heron <0.1%