Maine has been home to 11 of the 17 species of herons that live in North America on a regular basis. There are two more that are uncommon or accidental. This guide will help you identify and understand more about these long-legged birds.
Water-loving birds such as herons may be seen peering into your pond or wandering around in the water, freshwater, or even.
However, many of your fish herons are protected, so a net is your best option if you’re having trouble capturing them.
Herons, on the other hand, prefer to forage alone by standing motionless and waiting for the prey or dashing about to agitate it.
A company of herons is known by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” “siege,” and “pose” for example!
You should learn more about the ducks, swans, or pelicans you may see here if you enjoy seeing waterbirds in Maine.
13 Species Of Heron In Maine
1. Great Blue Heron
During the breeding season, Great Blue Herons may be seen in Maine, although they are most often seen during autumn migration. These are seen in 9% of summer checklists and 23% of bird watching submissions made to the state government during migration.
The largest heron native to North America, Great Blue Herons are huge, magnificent birds.
Their face is white, and their plume or crest extends from in front of their eyes to the rear of their heads. They have a yellowish-orangish color to their bills.
Their bodies are grayish-blue, and their legs are grayish-blue. Their necks are long and have 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 during the breeding season.
In Florida, the Great White Heron (a white morph subspecies of the Great Blue Heron) is known.
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 possible habitats for them.
Fish, frogs, salamanders, shrimps, crabs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other aquatic insects make up the majority of Great Blue Herons’ diets.
When wading or standing in water, they capture their prey. Hovering above water, diving into the water, leaping from perches feet-first, and floating on the surface are all examples of how they may behave.
Colonies of Great Blue Herons can be found high in the trees, close to water. Twigs and sticks are used to make the nests, which are lined with softer material.
Because Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, they may increase in size over time by repairing and adding to them.
The female deposits two to seven eggs after that. During roughly four weeks, both parents alternate sitting on the eggs.
Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back and their wings outstretched, Great Blue Herons protect their feeding area with spectacular displays.
2. Snowy Egret
From April to October, the Snowy Egret breeds in Maine, with the majority of sightings occurring in the south. They’re found on 5% of summer checklists.
Snowy Egrets are little all-white herons with a name to match. They have bright yellow feet and irises with a skin surrounding the eye. They have long, black bills and black legs.
Long, lacy feathers grow on their heads, necks, and backs during the breeding season. During courting, their lores or facial skin turn reddish-pink, and their toes turn orange-red.
Interestingly, during fierce battles, these parts of their bodies turn a vivid red.
The head plumes are missing from juveniles, who are similar to adults. Lores and legs are more greenish-yellow, and their bills and legs are also 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 along the Gulf Coast and southwest coast, snowy egrets migrate from most states in the US. Throughout the year, they may be found in Mexico, Central, and South America.
Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries throughout shallow wetland environments. Swamp woods with protective trees and plants are preferred for nesting.
Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are all hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They might rest quietly while awaiting prey to arrive or, alternatively, by stirring the water so that their prey is easier to capture.
The males choose the nests of Snowy Egrets. To attract their mates, they select a location and go fully visible. The males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds to the females when they pair up.
Nests are most typically found among the trees or among the shrubs on the ground. Both parents incubate their eggs, which the female lays two to six at a time. The average incubation period is twenty-four days.
Fun Fact: Because of their beautiful white head feathers, which were ideal for women’s hats, snowy egrets were nearly hunted to extinction.
3. Great Egret
Great Egrets are seen on 4% of summer checklists and breed in southern Maine. They come in March and begin their migratory journey in November.
Males have neon green facial skin and long, wispy feathers (aigrettes) extending from their backs to their tails during breeding season, which they display off during courting like a peacock flaring out its tail. Great Egrets are at their best then.
They’re called Great White Herons because they’re huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are another name for these birds. With dagger-like, long, brilliant yellow beaks and black legs and feet, these enormous birds are white.
They’re often referred to as Great White Herons because they’re huge, all-white herons. Common egrets are a name for them as well. White with dagger-like, long, brilliant yellow beaks and black legs and feet, these large birds are quiet.
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 great egret’s range extends across the globe. Those in the southern and coastal US regions stay throughout the year, whereas those in more northern regions migrate south.
Great Egrets may be found in fish ponds as well as freshwater and saltwater marshes.
Fish, frogs, small mammals, crustaceans, and insects make up the majority of Great Egret diets. Great Egrets stand motionless on the water, waiting for their prey to appear and then striking and spearing it with their long bills.
Great Egret colonies have nests. To safeguard the nests from predators like raccoons, they are frequently placed high up in trees, typically on islands.
Marsh plant stems, twigs, and sticks are used to create them. Females deposit up to six eggs, which are incubated for around twenty-five days by both parents.
Fun Fact: Because of their long white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was virtually hunted to extinction. They were primarily used to embellish ladies’ hats.
4. Black-crowned Night-Heron
During the breeding season, from April to September, black-crowned night-herons may be seen in southern Maine. Only 1% of summer checklists include them.
The typical description of the heron family does not apply to Black-crowned Night-Herons, or simply Night Herons. It has a shorter beak, neck, and legs than other storks.
The heads of adult Black-crowned Night-herons are black, with a white line extending from the bill above.
The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, and their eyes are red. The underpart is white, while the back is darker. Yellow is the color of their legs and feet.
The head and back of the bird become glossy blue-green during the breeding season, with two or three white feathers appearing on the crown. The legs and feet turn red or pink, while the lores turn black as well.
The overall color of juveniles is a dull grayish-brown with streaks and dots.
- 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 huge. Before migrating south, they breed in the United States and Canada. On the beaches, some can be found year-round.
Wetland habitats such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers are good places to find Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also used to create them.
Night-feeders like black-crowned night-herons, which eat everything from crayfish and fish to turtles and worms when they can find it.
Male Black-crowned Night-heron birds build nests in bushes and trees in the process of choosing their mates.
The female will deposit seven eggs over the next two days. Over the next twenty-four days, both parents begin to incubate the eggs they’ve just laid. For around three weeks, the parents will look after their baby.
Fun Fact: For almost a century, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has hosted a colony of Black-crowned Night-herons.
5. Green Heron
During the breeding season, Green Herons may be seen in southern Maine, and they appear on 1% of summer checklists. In April, they arrive, and in October, they begin migrating.
The glossy green-black color of the crowns, crests, backs, and wings of Green Herons is what gives them their name, but when you get up close, they seem stooped and gloomy.
These change color during the breeding season, becoming two-toned, dark on top and yellow on the bottom. Their irises and legs, like their feathers, change color.
Chestnut or maroon are their heads, necks, and breasts. A white stripe down the front length of the neck sits in the middle. Gray bellies cover their bodies.
With dark caps and a crest, juveniles are browner.
- Butorides virescens
- Length: 18 – 22 in (46 – 56 cm)
- Weight: 9.17 oz (260 g)
- Wingspan: 25 – 26 in (64 – 66 cm)
Before traveling south, Green Herons breed mostly in the eastern United States and Pacific Coast. Those, however, are year-round in the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, and Mexico.
Green Herons may be found in marshes, bogs, lakes, ponds, and other damp environments with thick vegetation. These animals may remain 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. Rather than wading, they commonly hunt from shore by perched on sticks over the water.
Green Heron nests are built on high branches over water, however they may also be placed on the ground, unseen under vegetation.
Females lay two eggs per day, in two-day intervals, up to six. The last egg is deposited, and the parents begin incubating for around twenty days. When their eggs hatch, they both feed their offspring.
Fun Facts: Bait, such as bread, feathers, twigs, and leaves are used by green herons to catch their prey, which is one of the few bird species that do.
6. Little Blue Heron
From April to October, Little Blue Herons may be found in southern Maine, although they are most frequent between July and August. They can be seen in up to 2% of checklists at this time.
Little Blue Herons are actually not that little birds. With long, elongated bodies, they range from medium to large. The feathers on their heads and necks are swaying, and their skin has a purple tint.
During the breeding season, their eyes turn gray-green, which is a pale yellow color. Their two-toned bills, which are pale blue or grayish with black tips, are long and dagger-like. Slate-blue is the color of their skin. From black to gray-green, their legs are long and black.
Before becoming a mix of dark gray, blue, and white, Juvenile Little Blue Herons are totally white for 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 migrating south, Little Blue Herons breed in eastern US states, then spend the winter in Mexico and South America.
Swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields are all good places to find Little Blue Herons.
In comparison to other herons, Little Blue Herons forage in a more elegant 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 are included in the Little Blue Heron’s diet. Adults prefer to go hunting by themselves, whereas juveniles prefer to be in mixed groups.
Little Blue Heron nests are made of sticks and are commonly found in groups with other herons. Up to six eggs are laid by the female. The incubation period can last up to twenty-four days, with both parents contributing.
Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ presence among Snowy Egrets allows them to catch more fish and have additional protection from predators because of the white coloring of these birds.
7. American Bittern
In mid-March, American Bitterns arrive in Maine and begin migrating in October, accounting for 1% of summer checklists.
The odd watery boom cries of the American Bittern may be heard well before you see them in the springtime, if you’re lucky. Below are some links to check out.
The Heron family includes the American Bitterns, which are big, medium-sized birds.
Because of their brown striped and mottled patterning and the ability to sit motionless amid the reeds with their head tilted upward, they resemble reeds.
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 traveling to the Gulf Coast and Mexico, American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states.
In shallow, freshwater marshes and wetlands with towering reeds, you may find American Bitterns almost exclusively.
Look for them around the margins of lakes and ponds, among the rough vegetation.
Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals make up the American Bitterns’ diet. They hunt cautiously among the reeds, staying motionless and quiet while waiting for their victim to approach before dashing forward swiftly to capture them in their beaks.
On the water, among coarse vegetation, you may find nests of American Bitterns. With available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other vegetation, females choose a nest location and build it themselves.
They spend around twenty-six days incubating seven eggs. The females give the chicks straight into their beaks when they are hatched, and then feed them. They are fully-fledged in six to seven weeks after leaving the nest after two weeks.
Fun Fact: Like the reeds that hide them to conceal themselves, American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side.
8. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
During migration, from August to September, yellow-crowned night-herons are frequently seen in southern Maine.
Yellow crowns with two plumes protruding from their heads characterize adult Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Their bills are black, which is remarkable. Their ears and the sides of their heads are white, with a little white patch in the ears.
As they grew up, their eyes turned from yellow to orange to crimson.
Their wings have a scaled pattern and their bodies are gray-blue. During the breeding season, their legs grow longer and turn coral, pink, or red.
Grayish-brown with white streaks and patches, juveniles start out grayish-brown all over. It takes three years for them to reach maturity.
- 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 areas with a lot of crustaceans, shallow waters, and solid edges on which to feed, you may see Yellow-crowned Night-herons at daybreak and dusk.
Crustaceans such as crabs and crayfish make up the majority of Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ diet. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rats and birds are among the other foods they consume. They have the ability to devour tiny prey instantly.
Crabs are frequently dismembered or stabbed in the body.
Yellow-crowned Night-herons’ nests are typically found in tiny, loose groups, and they always build near water. Both parents construct the nests from soft sticks and twigs, which are collected from grass, leaves, or moss.
They then incubate up to eight eggs for three weeks together. The chicks are fed by regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge after a month and can fly on their own at fifty days.
Fun Fact: The deadly mosquito-borne virus eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus can be carried by the Yellow-crowned Night-heron, killing horses and people.
9. Tricolored Heron
During the breeding season, Tricolored Herons can be found in Maine’s southwest, but they are uncommon.
The white belly and neck stripe of Tricolored Herons distinguishes them from other herons.
Adults that are non-breeding have blue-gray, purple, and white feathers mixed together. Their bills have a black tip and are yellowish or greyish. Yellow or olive green are their legs and feet.
The back of the head of breeding adults is likewise covered in thin, white feathers, while the base of the beak turns blue. Their neck and back feathers are also thinner. Their legs, like their bodies, turn scarlet.
The neck, upper breasts, upper back, and wings of juveniles are 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. Those who breed further north in the Atlantic Coast must migrate south.
In freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps, you may see Tricolored Herons.
Tricolored Herons are territorial of their meal grounds and feed alone. Other wading birds that want to feed on their area and like to devour tiny fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects will be chased away by them.
These animals are expected to stalk, pursue, stand, and wait for their victim. Before striking, they bend low in the water with their bellies touching the surface and their necks drawn in.
Tricolored Heron nests are constructed of sticks and may be found in trees and shrubbery colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, which the male and female share in the incubation process, which takes three weeks. The babies are also fed by both of them.
Fun Fact: The only dark-colored heron with a white belly, the Tricolored Heron used to be known as the Louisiana Heron.
10. Little Egret
In Maine, Little Egrets are regarded as a uncommon or accidental species, however during the summer, several have been sighted in the southwest.
The white-bodied Little Egret is a common sight. Their legs are black, and their feet are yellow. They have long, narrow necks, huge black beaks, yellow eyes, and yellow facial skin (lores).
The white-bodied Little Egrets are found across the world. Long, slender necks, black beaks with yellow eyes and lores, lengthy black legs, and yellow foot make up their appearance.
Little Egrets have sparse feathers on the crowns of their heads, neck, and back during the breeding season. At the peak of courting, their face skin turns crimson and their foot skin becomes pink or crimson.
In addition, there are blue-gray morphs that differ from the white morph.
The juveniles are grayer/brownish and have greenish-black legs with duller yellow feet, as compared to the adults.
- Egretta garzetta
- Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
- Weight: 17.6 oz (499 g)
- Wingspan: 34 – 41 in (86 – 104 cm)
Little Egrets may be found across Europe, Asia, and Africa, but they are frequently seen in the United States and Canada as well.
Little Egrets may be found hunting in fish ponds as well as along wetland settings such as lakeshores, riverbanks, ponds, lagoons, marshes, and canals.
Little Egrets either wait for fish to approach or disturb the water to scare them away as their primary food.
Little Egret nests are frequently constructed on elevated platforms of platform poles in reed beds or mangroves, high up in the trees or shrubs. The material for construction is usually found by males, and it is carried by females.
The female lays between six and ten eggs, which are incubated by both parents for three weeks. For around two weeks, both parents take care of their children. Six weeks later, they were able to fly.
Fun Fact: Because of the popularity of feathers for fashion at the time, the Little Egrets were once threatened to extinction in Ireland and Great Britain.
11. Cattle Egret
During migration, Cattle Egrets may be seen in southern Maine, although they are not particularly common.
Cattle Egrets use a clever method of capturing their meal…they stand on the backs of cattle, catching the flying prey as the cattle move and disturb the environment.
Cattle Egrets have white bodies and pale orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs. They are short-necked birds with a tiny beak.
Their eyes and face skin are yellow. They have short greenish-black legs and a small yellow beak. Males and females appear to be the same.
During the breeding season, Cattle Egret feathers change color and become more vivid, particularly on their legs and face.
Their pale orange patches turn darker orange during the breeding season. At the height of their courting, their bills, legs, and irises become bright red, and their facial skin (lores) turns 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 around the globe, however those in Mexico, on the Gulf Coast, and in the southwestern US states spend the whole year there.
After breeding, however, those that breed farther north, primarily in the eastern United States, move south.
In natural grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, and rice fields where hoofed livestock are present, you may see Cattle Egrets.
They do venture into the edges of aquatic settings, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, while preferring to remain on land and atop of cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are all places where they may be found.
Cattle Egret nests are most often constructed in woodlands around lakes or rivers, in marshes, or on small islands. They’re created of sticks and reeds.
The females lay nine eggs, which they incubate for around twenty-five days. The young take roughly 45 days to grow up, fledge, and become completely autonomous from their parents.
Fun Fact: Instead of correcting for light refraction when feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to forage on land by having binocular vision.
12. Least Bittern
During the breeding season, from May to August, you may see a few Least Bitterns in Maine, though they are not particularly common.
In the Americas, Least Bitterns are the smallest herons and are frequently heard before they are seen.
With a dark cap and dark top to their yellow bill, they are brown and white hues. They grip the reeds with their claws and long toes.
Males have broader backs and crowns than adult females and juveniles.
- Ixobrychus exilis
- Length: 11 – 14 in (28 – 36 cm)
- Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
- Wingspan: 16 – 18 in (41 – 46 cm)
The Bitterns’ normal habitat is Europe and Africa, although they have been known to travel as far north as Canada.
Least Bitterns may be found in marshes with a lot of tall cattails and reeds, as well as in dense freshwater and brackish marshlands. When they perch on reeds, look for them.
They’ll stiffen up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in rhythm with the reeds as soon as they sense danger.
Least Bitterns’ diet includes small fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and sometimes, mice. They position themselves on the reeds, sometimes performing acrobatic contortions just to reach their prey on the surface of the water.
Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and occasionally mice are all part of the least bitterns’ diet. They settle down on the reeds, twisting and turning in ways that may seem impossible to reach their target on the water’s surface.
The female constructs well-concealed nests from cattails and marsh plants, which are well-camouflaged. Over twenty days, both parents incubate the eggs she lays up to seven. They then regurgitate food to feed newly hatched chicks.
Fun Fact: Long necks and a hunchbacked posture characterize the Least Bitterns.
13. Western Reef-Heron
In Maine, Western Reef-Herons are an uncommon sight. They were only discovered around Kittery in 2006, and they are incredibly uncommon in the state.
Thin-bodied, with a long thin neck and beak, black legs, and yellow feet, Western Reef Herons are slender. Their yellow feet turn orange or red during the breeding season, and their bills are completely black with two long feathers on their nape.
The Dark and White varieties of Western Reef Herons are available. The white have white bodies, whereas the dark morph has grayish-black bodies. They both have yellowish feet with black legs and yellow eyes.
- Egretta gularis
- Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
- Weight: 14.1 oz (400 g)
- Wingspan: 40 – 43 in (102 – 109 cm)
Herons from the Western Reef prefer Africa, Asia, and southern Europe, but they may be found in the United States on occasion. They’re often found near the coast.
Fish, crustaceans, amphibians, mollusks, tiny reptiles, and birds are all part of Western Reef Herons’ diet. The animals will either stay still and wait for the prey to approach them or shuffle the shallow water with their feet to bring it to the surface and seize it with their huge beaks.
Western Reef Heron nests are shaped like platforms and made of sticks and branches. The first egg is placed by the female, who then lays three to five eggs. After twenty-four days, both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch.
Fun Fact: In 1983, the first specimen of Western Reef Herons was seen on Nantucket in the United States, but they have since been observed several times.
How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In Maine In Summer And Winter
Finding out which birds are frequently seen in your state can be done using checklists. On checklists on ebird in Maine throughout the summer and winter, these lists indicate which herons are most often seen.
Herons in Maine in summer:
Great Blue Heron 9.2%
Snowy Egret 5.5%
Great Egret 4.8%
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1.4%
American Bittern 1.1%
Green Heron 1.1%
Little Blue Heron 0.9%
Tricolored Heron 0.2%
Little Egret 0.2%
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 0.1%
Cattle Egret 0.1%
Least Bittern 0.1%
Herons in Maine in winter:
Great Blue Heron 0.7%
Black-crowned Night-Heron <0.1%
Great Egret <0.1%
Little Blue Heron <0.1%
American Bittern <0.1%