Louisiana has been home to 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 are water-loving birds that prefer to dine on fish, frogs, or even snacking in your yard pond.
However, many of your fish herons are protected and a net is your best option if you’re having difficulty.
Herons are generally found in large colonies known as heronries, where they breed and hunt alone by remaining completely motionless and waiting or dashing about.
A collection of herons is known by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” “siege,” and “pose” for example.
You may want to learn more about the ducks, swans, or pelicans that you may see in Louisiana if you like seeing waterbirds.
12 Species Of Heron In Louisiana
1. Great Egret
In Louisiana, Great Egrets are found year-round and are extremely abundant. They are seen on 39% of bird watchers’ summer and winter checklists for the state, according to the records.
When males have neon green faces and lengthy, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails, Great Egrets are at their best during the breeding season.
They’re often referred to as Great White Herons because they’re huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are another name for them. These huge birds feature dagger-like, long, brilliant yellow beaks and lengthy, black legs and feet.
Both sexes look almost identical in males, females, and juveniles.
- 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 stay here all year, whereas those in the more inland and Canada move south.
Great Egrets may be found in both freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as fish ponds.
Fish, frogs, small mammals, crustaceans, and insects make up the majority of the diet of Great Egrets. Great Egrets stand still on the water, waiting and spying their prey, before striking and spearing it with their long bills.
In colonies, Great Egret nests may be seen. To keep their nests safe from raccoons, they are often placed high up in trees, ideally on islands.
Sticks, twigs, and stems of marsh plants are used to make them. Females lay six eggs, which are incubated by both parents for around twenty-five days.
Fun Fact: The Great Egret was almost exterminated because of its long white feathers (aigrettes). Women’s hats were adorned with these feathers in large quantities.
2. Great Blue Heron
In Louisiana, Great Blue Herons can be seen year-round. Summer and winter checklists each have 22% of these species.
The Great Blue Heron is North America’s largest heron and is a very big, magnificent bird.
Their face is white, and their crest or plume extends from the front of their eyes to the back of their heads. Yellow-orangish is the color of their bills.
They have grayish-blue bodies and long gray legs, with 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 are home to Great Blue Herons, but they migrate south when they breed in the Mid-West and Canada.
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 shorelines are all examples of places where they may be found.
Fish, frogs, salamanders, shrimps, crabs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other aquatic insects make up the majority of Great Blue Herons’ diet.
When wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. Hovering above water, diving inside it, leaping feetfirst from perches, and floating on its surface are all examples of how they might behave.
Great Blue Heron colonies can be found high up in trees near water, where the birds breed. Twigs and sticks are used to construct the nests, which are lined with softer material.
Because Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, they can continually grow them in size by repairing and extending the nests.
After that, the female lays two to seven eggs. For about four weeks, both parents share the duty of incubating the eggs.
Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons protect their feeding grounds with spectacular outstretched-wing displays.
3. Snowy Egret
All year round, Louisiana is home to the Snowy Egrets. Summer checklists have 22%, and winter checklists have 19% of these events.
The little, all-white herons known as Snowy Egrets are named for their small size. They have long, black beaks, black legs, and bright yellow feet with yellow irises.
Their heads, necks, and backs get lengthy, lacy feathers during the breeding season. During courtship, their lores, or facial skin, becomes reddish-pink, and their toes turn orange-red.
Interestingly, during aggressive encounters, these sections of their bodies become bright red.
Adults and juveniles look a lot alike, but they lack head plumes. 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 from all states of the US. In Central, South, and North America, they may be found all year.
Snowy Egrets prefer shallow, watery environments such as marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries. They prefer marshlands with protective trees and plants for nesting.
Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are all hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may stand still and wait for prey to come to them or stir the water to bring their prey to the top so that they can capture it more easily.
The males choose the nests of Snowy Egrets. They choose a spot and go on show for the purpose of attracting mates. Males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds while the female creates the nest when they couple up.
Nests are commonly found in trees or on the ground, hidden among shrubs. Both parents incubate their eggs, which the female lays two to six at a time. The incubation period is normally twenty-four days.
Nesting is most commonly done in trees or shrubs on the ground. Both parents take turns incubating their eggs after the female lays two to six eggs. The average incubation period is twenty-four days.
Fun Fact: Because of their lovely white head feathers, which were a perfect embellishment or accessory for women’s hats, snowy Egrets were on the verge of extinction.
4. Little Blue Heron
All year, Little Blue Herons may be observed in Louisiana, but they are most abundant from June through August. Summer checklists include them in 22% of the time, while winter checklists include them 8%.
Little Blue Herons are a little bigger than first thought. They have long, elongated 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 and are pale yellow. They have two-toned bills that are pale blue or grayish in color with black tips. Slate-blue coloration covers their bodies. Long and black to gray-green, their legs are long.
During their first year of life, juvenile Little Blue Herons are completely white, then change to a combination of 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)
Little Blue Herons breed in the eastern United States before migrating south, but those in the Gulf Coast and Mexico remain throughout the year.
Little Blue Herons may be found near water, such as in marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields.
Compared to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more graceful manner. They merely 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 diet of Little Blue Herons. Adults prefer to forage on their own, but juveniles prefer to hang out with others.
Little Blue Heron nests are made of sticks and are commonly found in colonies with other herons. Up to six eggs are laid by the female. Up to twenty-four days of incubation are shared by both parents.
Fun Fact: The presence of Juvenile Little Blue Herons among Snowy Egrets enables them to capture more fish and provide additional protection from predators due to the white coloring.
5. Cattle Egret
During Louisiana’s breeding season, Cattle Egrets may be seen, but many of them remain here year-round. Summer checklists feature them 23% of the time, while winter checklists feature them 5%.
Cattle Egrets use a clever technique of catching their prey…they stand on the backs of cattle and capture the startled prey as the cattle walk and disturb the area.
Cattle Egrets are slender, short-necked birds with white bodies and pale orange-brown markings on their heads, necks, and backs.
Their eyes and skin are yellow in color. They have greenish-black legs and small yellow beaks. Males and females have a lot in common.
Cattle Egrets’ color shifts throughout the year, becoming brighter in particular on their legs and face during breeding season.
Their pale orange patches change to a deeper orange color during the breeding season. At the peak 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 all throughout the globe, however those in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and the southern United States remain year-round.
But, after breeding, those who breed farther north, mostly in the eastern US states, move south.
In grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice fields where hoofed animals are present, you may see Cattle Egrets.
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 all places where they can be found.
Cattle Egret nests are generally created in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in marshes, or on tiny islands, and are made of sticks and reeds.
Up to nine eggs are laid by the female, which take around twenty-five days to hatch. The young take around 45 days to fledge, mature, and become self-sufficient from their parents.
Fun Fact: Rather than correcting for light refraction when feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to forage on land with binocular vision.
6. Tricolored Heron
Throughout the year, Tricolored Herons may be seen in Louisiana, especially near the state’s south. Summer checklists include them in 10% of the lists, while winter checklists include them in 6%.
The white belly and neck stripe on a Tricolored Heron distinguishes it from other herons.
Adults that are not breeding have a mix of blue-gray, purple, and white feathers. Yellowish or greyish in color, with a black tip, they have yellowish or greyish bills. Yellow or olive green is the color of their legs and feet.
The back of the head of breeding adults is also covered in thin, white feathers, and their beak develops a blue coloration. Their necks and backs have also become more feathers. Their legs, too, turn crimson 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)
All year long, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and northern South America are home to Tricolored Herons. Those that breed farther north migrate south as they go along the Atlantic Coast.
You can find Tricolored Herons in freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps.
Freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps are all good places to look for Tricolored Herons.
Tricolored Herons guard their feeding sites and are solitary feeders. Other wading birds will be driven away from their area, and they will like to eat small fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects.
Tricolored Heron nests are built out of sticks and grown in trees and bushes in colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, and the parents spend three weeks incubating them before they hatch. The females and males share the responsibility. The offspring are also fed by both of them.
Fun Fact: The only dark-colored heron with a white belly, the Tricolored Heron was previously known as the Louisiana Heron.
7. Green Heron
Herons may be seen throughout the year in Louisiana, however their numbers rise from April to September. Summer checklists have 19% of them, whereas winter checklists have just 1%.
The glossy green-black coloring of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of green herons gives them their name, but if you get a little closer, they appear to be hunchbacked and dark from afar.
During the breeding season, their bills turn black, with two-toned dark on top and yellow on bottom. Their irises and legs also change color, from yellow to orange.
Chestnut or maroon are the colors of their heads, necks, and breasts. The neck has a white central stripe that runs down the front of the neck. Gray is the color of their stomachs.
Browner in color, with black caps and a higher crest, adults are juveniles.
- 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. Those in the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, and Mexico, on the other hand, are year-round.
Swamps, marshes, lakes, ponds, and other wet environments with thick vegetation are home to Green Herons. They may stay in dry woods or orchards if there are water sources nearby, even though they prefer coastal and inland wetlands.
Little fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents make up the Green Heron’s diet. Instead of wading, they usually hunt from the beach by perched on sticks over the water.
Green Heron nests are constructed of long, thin branches placed high in the trees over water, however they may be discovered on the ground, undiscovered beneath shrubs.
Females place up to six eggs over a two-day period. The last egg is laid, and both parents start incubating it, which takes around twenty days. When the eggs hatch, they both feed their young.
Fun Facts: Using bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves to catch their prey, green herons are one of the few bird species that use tools for foraging.
8. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
From March to October, yellow-crowned night-herons may be seen in Louisiana, accounting for 12% of summer checklists. Several, on the other hand, may be seen in the state throughout the year.
The crowns of adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons are yellow, with two plumes protruding from the head. They feature a black coloration to their huge bills. Their remaining heads are black, with a little white patch on the sides below their eyes.
Yellow crowns with two plumes extend from the heads of adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Their huge bills are black, and so is their beak. Their remaining heads are black, with a little white patch on the sides below their eyes.
They have red eyes that change from yellow to orange to red as they grew up.
Their wings have a scaled pattern and their bodies are gray-blue. During the breeding season, their legs grow long and turn coral, pink, or red.
Grayish-brown with white streaks and specks on the back, juveniles start out. It takes three years for them to mature.
- 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 mainly in the southeastern United States. Throughout the year, they may be found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America.
In coastal places with a high abundance of crustaceans, shallow water, and large edges on which to feed, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons both daybreak and nightfall.
Crabs and crayfish make up the majority of Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ diets. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rodents, and birds are also eaten by them. They can devour tiny prey with ease.
Crabs are frequently dismembered or stabbed in the body.
Yellow-crowned Night-herons usually build nests in small, loose colonies, but they always construct nests near water. Both parents construct the nests using grass, leaves, or moss-softened sticks and twigs.
After that, she typically lays eight eggs and they sit together for three weeks. The chicks are fed through regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge around a month after birth and may fly on their own at fifty days.
Fun Fact: The eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, which can kill horses and people, is carried by yellow-crowned night-herons.
9. Black-crowned Night-Heron
All year, but more so from June to July, Black-crowned Night-Herons can be seen in Louisiana. Summer checklists have a 5% chance of containing them, whereas winter checklists have a 3% chance.
The typical description of the heron family does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Heron. It has a shorter beak, neck, and legs, as well as being stocky.
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, but their eyes are red. The bottom is white, while the back is dark. Yellow is the color of their legs and feet.
The head and back of the black bird become glossy blue-green during the breeding season, while two or three white feathers grow on the crown. Legs and feet become red or pink, and the lores turn black as well.
The juveniles are a drab grayish-brown color 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 extends across the globe. They breed in the US and Canada before moving south in North America. Along the beaches, some may be seen all year.
Wetland environments like shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are home to Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to house these creatures.
In preparation for selecting their mates, males build nests of Black-crowned Night-herons, which are commonly created in bushes or trees.
In order to choose their mates, males build nests of Black-crowned Night-herons in bushes or trees, which are started by them.
The female will deposit up to seven eggs every two days. Over the next twenty-four days, both parents begin incubating the eggs that have been laid. For about three weeks, the parents will be in charge of their kids.
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.
10. Reddish Egret
In Louisiana, Reddish Egrets are a near-threatened species, but they may be seen throughout the state during all seasons.
This is one of the best birds to watch because of Reddish Egrets’ dark pink and grayish-blue hues and rapid activity in order to capture fish.
They are actually dark and light morphs of the Reddish Egret, although white morphs are uncommon.
Blue-gray bodies and cinnamon-toned heads, necks, and breasts characterize dark morph Reddish Egrets. Pink with a black tip, their bills are colorful.
The bodies of white morphs are totally devoid of color. Their eyes, however, are straw yellow, and their legs and feet are blue-black. They both have a deeper skin around (lores).
Adults will mate with either morph, and 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)
All year, Reddish Egrets may be found along the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and throughout Mexico until northern South America.
On open marine flats and beaches, you may see Reddish Egrets. Marshes, shallow bays, and lagoons are also home to them.
Reddish Egrets mostly forage and feed by themselves. In order to capture fish, they cross shallow, flooded flats. They immediately stab fish with their beaks after successfully scaring them up.
Reddish Egret nests are frequently found in colonies, with both parents contributing to their construction. They’re often found on islands with easy access to fishing grounds.
The female lays seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 25 days. Even after they leave the nest, they both care for the young and will 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 and standing out on his head, neck, and back.
11. Least Bittern
From April through October, Least Bitterns are found on 2% of summer checklists in Louisiana during the breeding season.
In the reeds, you may hear the Least Bitterns first, which are the tiniest herons in North America.
Their yellow beak has a dark cap and a dark top, and they are shades of brown and white. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.
Females and young males have similar backs and crowns, but they are lighter.
- Ixobrychus exilis
- Length: 11 – 14 in (28 – 36 cm)
- Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
- Wingspan: 16 – 18 in (41 – 46 cm)
Little Bitterns are found across Europe and Africa, but may also be seen in North America on occasion.
In freshwater and brackish marshlands with many tall cattails and reeds, you may find Least Bitterns. When they perched on reeds, look for them.
They’ll immediately stiffen, 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 are among the foods of the Least Bitterns. They squat on the reeds, twisting themselves upside down and even upside down just to catch their prey in the surface of the water.
The female of the Least Bitterns creates well-concealed nests from cattails and marsh vegetation. Both parents incubate the eggs for around twenty days after she lays up to seven eggs. After that, they regurgitate food to feed newly-hatched chicks.
Fun Fact: Long necks distinguish Least Bitterns, which tend to sit in a hunchbacked posture.
12. American Bittern
In Louisiana, American Bitterns are a rare sight, but during the winter, they may be seen.
In the spring of the American Bittern, you might hear their weird watery boom calls before you see them if you’re lucky. Below are a few samples of what we’ve got.
The Heron family includes the American Bitterns, which are robust, 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 shift 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 crossing the Gulf Coast and Mexico, American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states.
In shallow, freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds, you may spot American Bitterns practically exclusively.
Look for them among the coarse vegetation on the edges of lakes and ponds.
Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the diet of American Bitterns. They stealthily forage among the reeds, staying motionless and silent as they wait for their victim to approach before dashing forward quickly and snatching them in their bills.
On the water, among coarse vegetation, you may find Nests of American Bitterns. Females pick a location on the ground and construct their nest with available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other plants.
They incubate seven eggs for around twenty-six days before laying them up. The females feed the chicks directly into their beaks when they are born. They fledge the nest after two weeks and are fully grown after seven weeks.
Fun Fact: Like the reeds that conceal them, American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side.
How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Louisiana In Summer And Winter
Checklists are a valuable tool for discovering which birds are most often seen in your region. On ebird checklists in Louisiana during the summer and winter, these lists display which herons are most often seen.
Herons in Louisiana in summer:
Great Egret 38.1%
Cattle Egret 23.7%
Snowy Egret 22.8%
Little Blue Heron 22.4%
Great Blue Heron 22.2%
Green Heron 19.7%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 12.5%
Tricolored Heron 10.7%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 5.4%
Least Bittern 2.6%
Reddish Egret 1.9%
American Bittern 0.1%
Herons in Louisiana in winter:
Great Egret 39.4%
Great Blue Heron 29.3%
Snowy Egret 19.0%
Little Blue Heron 8.0%
Tricolored Heron 6.6%
Cattle Egret 5.7%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3.5%
Green Heron 1.4%
Reddish Egret 0.4%
American Bittern 0.4%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 0.2%
Least Bittern 0.1%