All Herons In Kansas (ID, Photos, When To Spot)

In Kansas, 11 of the 17 species of herons that live throughout North America have been observed. There’s also a 1 that’s uncommon or unintentional. This guide will assist you in identifying and understanding these long-legged birds.

Herons are water-loving birds that may be seen in your pond for a quick meal, whether it’s fresh or salt.

Yet, many of your fish herons are protected, thus a net is the best option if you’re having trouble catching them.

Herons, like most birds, prefer to hunt alone by remaining completely still and allowing or dashing about to excite the prey. Herons often nest in huge colonies known as heronries.

A group of herons is referred to as a “rookery,” “battery,” or even a “hedge.” These are just a few of the names for such a group!

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

12 Species Of Heron In Kansas

1. Great Blue Heron

Throughout the year, Great Blue Herons may be seen in Kansas, although they are most visible between April and October. They are seen in 26% of summer and 10% of winter checklists provided by birdwatchers for the state.

The biggest heron native to North America, Great Blue Herons are huge, magnificent birds.

From the front of their eyes to the back of their heads, they have a white face with a black crest or plume. Their skin is a shade of orangeish yellow.

Grayish-blue bodies with long gray legs, they have a long gray neck 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, but they migrate south during the breeding season.

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 wetlands. Fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded marshes, lake edges, and shorelines 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’ diets.

While wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. Hovering above water, diving into the water, jumping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are all ways they may do it.

Great Blue Heron colonies are located high up in trees near bodies of water, where they build nests. Twigs and sticks are used to construct the nests, which are lined with softer material.

Since Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, they may expand and develop them over time by repairing and refurbishing them.

After that, the female deposits two to seven eggs. For approximately four weeks, both parents care for the eggs.

Fun Fact: Great Blue Herons use their heads thrown back and outstretched wings to protect their feeding territory.

2. Great Egret

From April to November, Great Egrets may be seen in Kansas, accounting for 7% of summer checklists.

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

They are Great White Herons because they are huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are the name given to them. White with dagger-like, long, bright yellow beaks and long, black legs and feet, these enormous birds are impressive.

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 world is home to Great Egrets. Those in the southern and seaside United States stay throughout the year, whereas those farther inland migrate during the winter.

Great Egrets may be found in both freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as fish ponds, but not always.

Fish, frogs, small mammals, crustaceans, and insects make up the majority of Great Egrets’ diet. Great Egrets stand motionless in the water, waiting for and scouting out their prey before striking and spearing it with their long bills.

Great Egret colonies are home to their nests. To safeguard the nests from predators like raccoons, they are usually put high up in trees, preferably on islands.

Marsh plant stems and sticks are used to make them. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty-five days, which range from six to six eggs.

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

3. Green Heron

During the breeding season, Green Herons may be found in Kansas, where they make up 5% of the summer checklists. They migrate in October after arriving in April.

The glossy green-black color of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of Green Herons is what gives them their name; from a distance, they appear bent and gloomy.

While during the breeding season, their bills change to a black coloration, they have two-toned dark on top and yellow at the bottom. Their irises and legs likewise change color from yellow to orange.

Chestnut or maroon are the colors of their heads, necks, and breasts. A white stripe runs down the front length of the neck, dividing it into two halves. Gray is the color of their bellies.

Browner juveniles with black heads and a crest.

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

Before flying south, green herons usually breed in the eastern United States and the Pacific Coast. Those, on the other hand, will stay throughout the year along the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, and Mexico.

Green Herons can be found in wetlands with thick vegetation, such as marshes, lakes, ponds, and other wet environments. If there are water sources nearby, they may stay in dry woods or orchards rather than coastal and inland wetlands.

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

Green Heron nests are built on high, thin twigs in the trees above water, although they may also be built on the ground, hidden under shrubs.

Females lay two eggs every two days, in 2-day periods. The final egg is laid and the parents begin incubating it, which takes around twenty days. When their eggs hatch, they both feed their infants.

Fun Facts:  Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves, is used by green herons to catch their prey. (Davis and Kushlan, 1994) This is one of the few bird species that uses tools for foraging.

4. Snowy Egret

From April through October, snowy egrets breed in Kansas, and they appear on 3% of summer checklists.

Snowy Egrets are little, all-white herons that go by the name. Long, black bills, long, black legs, and bright yellow feet are all features of these yellow irises and skin around their eye.

Long, lacy feathers grow on their heads, necks, and backs during the breeding season. During courting, their lores and cheeks become reddish-pink, while their toes become orange-red.

Surprisingly, during violent encounters, these sections of their bodies become bright red.

Adults have head plumes, whereas juveniles do not. Their bills and legs are likewise lighter in color, with a greenish-yellow loral and leg.

  • 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 coast, snowy egrets migrate across the United States. Throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, they live all year.

Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries. They prefer shallow wetland environments. They like marshy woods with protective trees and shrubs for nesting.

Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are among the foods of snowy egrets in shallow water. They may either remain motionless while awaiting prey to arrive or stir up the water in order for their prey to surface and make it simpler for them to capture.

The males select Snowy Egret nests. They choose a spot and go into full display to entice potential mates. The males continue to provide sticks, sedges, or reeds while the females construct the nest when they couple up.

Nesting places are commonly found in trees or under shrubs on the ground. Both parents incubate their eggs alternately after the female lays two to six eggs. The incubation time is typically twenty-four days.

Fun Fact: Because of their exquisite white head feathers, snowy egrets were practically exterminated due to their usefulness as a woman’s hat decoration or accessory.

5. Black-crowned Night-Heron

From April through October, black-crowned night-herons may be seen in Kansas, accounting for 2% of summer checklists. Others, though, are occasionally seen throughout the year in the state.

The typical description of the heron family does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Herons. Its bill, neck, and legs are all shorter than those of other storks.

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

The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, and their eyes are red. The back of their bodies is darker than the front. Their yellow legs and feet contrast with their black heads.

The head and back turn black during the breeding season, while two or three white feathers emerge on the crown, which becomes a lustrous blue-green. 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 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. Some may be found along the coastlines all year.

In wetland environments such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers, you may find Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are likewise made use of them.

Night-feeders such as crayfish and fish, as well as turtles or worms, are black-crowned Night-herons.

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

The female will then deposit seven eggs every two days. For around twenty-four days, both parents begin to incubate the eggs as soon as they are placed. For roughly three weeks, the parents will be responsible for their babies.

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

6. Little Blue Heron

From April to October, little blue herons may be seen in eastern Kansas, accounting for 2% of summer checklists.

Little Blue Herons, despite their name, are actually quite large. With long, extended bodies, they are medium to huge in size. With dangling feathers over the nape, their heads and necks have a purplish tint.

During the breeding season, their eyes can become gray-green. Their two-toned bills, which are pale blue or grayish with black tips, are long and dagger-like. Slate-blue skin covers their bodies. They have long, black to gray-green legs.

Before turning a mix of dark gray, blue, and white, juvenile Little Blue Herons are totally white 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, but those living along the Gulf Coast and Mexico remain throughout the year.

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

As compared to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage with a more graceful motion. They simply stand and wait in shallow waters for their prey, rather than dashing about across the water.

Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, mice, and insects are among the foods of Little Blue Herons. Adults generally forage alone, although juveniles prefer to mix with other groups.

Little Blue Heron nests are composed of sticks, and they’re commonly found in groups with other herons. The female can lay up to six eggs. During the twenty-four-day incubation period, both parents share in the responsibility.

Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ presence among Snowy Egrets allows them to catch more fish and offer extra protection from predators because of the white coloring on their bodies.

7. Cattle Egret

Between April and October, Cattle Egrets may be seen in Kansas during the breeding season. Summer checklists account for 2% of the time they’re seen.

Cattle Egrets use a clever method of catching their meals…they stand on the backs of cattle and capture the moving prey when the cattle shift and disturb the soil.

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

They have yellow irises and facial skin. Their bills are small, and their legs are greenish-black. Both men and femen look similar.

During the breeding season, Cattle Egret feathers change color and get more vivid, notably on their legs and face.

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

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

Cattle Egrets may be found across the globe, but in North America, those living in Mexico’s south, the Gulf Coast, and southern US states stay throughout the year.

Breeding, however, draws the animals south after they have bred further north, mainly in eastern US states.

Cattle Egrets may be seen in native grasslands, grazing lands, agricultural fields, and rice paddies wherever hoofed animals are present.

They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, while preferring to stay on land and on top of cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are among places where they may be seen.

Insects, mostly grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths are the diet of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, small snakes, lizards, worms, and fish are among the animals they consume.

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

They incubate up to nine eggs for approximately twenty-five days, depending on the female. The young take around 45 days to fledge and become completely self-sufficient from their parents.

Fun Fact: The Cattle Egret has adapted its eyes to foraging on land by using binocular vision to judge distance while catching prey rather than correcting for light refraction while feeding in water.

8. American Bittern

During the summer, Kansas has seen American Bitterns, but during migration season, their numbers grow. These are most frequently seen from April to May, and they appear on 2% of checklists at this time.

In the spring of the American Bittern, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear their strange watery boom calls long before they appear. Below are a few examples of them.

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 capacity to stay motionless amid the reeds with their head tilted up, they appear like the reeds they hide among.

They have 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 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 almost always home to American Bitterns.

To locate them, look for them near the margins of lakes and ponds among the rough flora.

Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They stealthily forage among the reeds, remaining motionless and quiet until their prey gets closer, before dashing forward swiftly to capture them in their bills.

On the water, amid coarse vegetation, nests of American Bitterns may be discovered. With available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other vegetation, females select a nest location and construct it themselves.

They deposit seven eggs, which are incubated for around twenty-six days. The females feed the chicks directly into their beaks when they are born. They leave the nest after two weeks and are fully formed in six to seven weeks.

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

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

From April through October, yellow-crowned night-herons may be found in Kansas, although their numbers rise from June to August. Summer checklists include them at a rate of 1%.

The crowns of adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons are yellow, with two plumes protruding from their heads. They have black-and-white billowing. Their remaining heads are black, with a little white patch on the sides below their eyes.

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

Their wings have a scaled pattern and their bodies are gray-blue. During the breeding season, their legs elongate and turn pink, red, or coral.

Grayish-brown with white streaks and spots, juveniles are born greyish-brown. 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 migrating south, yellow-crowned night-herons breed mostly in the southeastern 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 large margins on which to feed, you may find Yellow-crowned Night-herons at daybreak and dusk.

Crustaceans like crabs and crayfish make up the majority of Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ diets. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rats, and birds are among the animals that they consume. Little prey can be swallowed in a flash.

Crabs are often butchered or stabbed in their bodies.

Yellow-crowned Night-herons build nests near water in small, loose colonies, and their nests are frequently discovered there. Both parents construct the nests from soft sticks and twigs gathered from grass, leaves, or moss.

After that, she lays up to eight eggs, which are incubated for three weeks by the couple. Chicks are fed through regurgitation after 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. Least Bittern

From April to October, the east of the state can be visited by Least Bitterns, which are not particularly common in Kansas.

In the reeds, you may hear Least Bitterns before you see them, because they are the smallest herons in North America.

Their beaks are yellow, and their bodies are brown with white highlights. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.

The backs and crowns of females and juveniles are comparable to those of males.

  • 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 be seen in North America on occasion.

In thick freshwater and brackish marshlands with many tall cattails and reeds, you can find Least Bitterns. When they perch on reeds, look for them.

They’ll immediately stiffen up, raise their bills to the sky, and swing in time with the reeds when they sense danger.

Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and occasionally mice are among the foods eaten by Least Bitterns. They squat on the reeds, executing acrobatic contortions to get to their prey on the water’s surface. They’re often seen doing so.

Fun Fact: Long necks are characteristic of Least Bitterns, who often remain in a hunchbacked posture.

11. Reddish Egret

In Kansas, Reddish Egrets are classified as a near-threatened species, with the last sighting in 2017 near Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

This is one of the best birds to watch because of Reddish Egrets’ dark pink and grayish-blue hues and rigorous activity in order to capture fish.

They are actually dark and light variants of Reddish Egrets, with white variants being uncommon.

The bodies, heads, necks, and breasts of dark morph Reddish Egrets are blue-gray. Pink with a black tip, their bills are small.

White morphs are completely devoid of color. Their eyes are blue-black, and their legs and feet have a darker pigmentation around (lores).

Adults may 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)

From the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Mexico all the way to northern South America, Reddish Egrets may be seen year-round.

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

Reddish Egrets are mostly solitary birds that forage and feed. In the hopes of capturing fish, they cross shallow and flooded plains. They stab fish with their beaks as soon as they’re successful in scaring them up.

Reddish Egret nests are frequently found in colonies, with both parents constructing a stick platform. Protected islands with neighboring feeding grounds are frequently used.

The female produces up to seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 25 days. When they leave the nest, they both worry about the young and will 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 swell out and stand out on his head, neck, and back.

12. Tricolored Heron

In Kansas, tricolored herons are not particularly common, however they were sighted at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Marais Des Cygnes Waterfowl Area in 2022.

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

Adults that are not breeding have a mixture of blue-gray, purple, and white feathers. Their bills have a black tip and are yellowish or greyish in color. Yellow or olive green coloration covers their legs and feet.

The back of the heads of breeding adults are also covered in thin, white feathers, and the base of their beaks turns blue. Their necks and backs have also gotten finer feathers. Their legs, too, become reddish in hue.

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 seen all year. Breeding farther north along the Atlantic Coast leads to a southern migration.

Tricolored Herons may be found in lakes and brackish marshes, as well as coastal tidal pools and swamps, where they live.

Tricolored Herons are solitary eaters who defend their feeding sites. They’ll drive away wading birds that want to eat little fish, frogs, crabs, and insects and who also come to their area in search of food.

stalking, chasings, standatg, and waitatg to capture their victim are all expected behaviors. Before striking, they squat low in the water with their bellies resting on the surface and their necks drawn in.

Tricolored Herons build nests out of sticks and place them in trees and shrubs in colonies. After three weeks of incubation, the female deposits three to five eggs, which are then shared by both parents. They both breastfeed the infants as well.

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

How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Kansas In Summer And Winter

Using checklists, you may see which birds are most often seen in your region. On checklists on ebird throughout the summer and winter in Kansas, these lists reveal which herons are most often recorded.

Herons in Kansas in summer:

Great Blue Heron 26.2%

Great Egret 7.6%

Green Heron 5.1%

Snowy Egret 3.5%

Little Blue Heron 2.2%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 2.2%

Cattle Egret 1.9%

American Bittern 1.1%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1.0%

Least Bittern 0.8%

Reddish Egret 0.1%

Tricolored Heron <0.1%

Herons in Kansas in winter:

Great Blue Heron 10.1%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.1%

Great Egret 0.1%

American Bittern <0.1%

Least Bittern <0.1%

Snowy Egret <0.1%

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