All Herons In New Hampshire (ID, Photos, Calls)

New Hampshire has been home to 11 of the 17 species of herons that are native to North America. There are two more that are uncommon or unintentional. This guide will assist you in identifying and understanding these long-legged birds.

Herons are water-loving birds that can be found peering into your backyard pond for a quick snack, whether it’s saltwater, freshwater, or even.

Nonetheless, a net is your greatest option if you’re having trouble because many of your fish herons are protected.

Herons are most often seen hunting alone, standing totally still and waiting for the prey or dashing about to stir it up. They prefer to nest in huge colonies known as heronries.

A collection of herons is known by a variety of names, including “rookery,” “battery,” “hedge,” “siege,” and “pose” for starters.

You might want to learn more about the ducks, swans, and pelicans you may see in New Hampshire if you enjoy seeing waterbirds.

13 Species Of Heron In New Hampshire

1. Great Blue Heron

During the breeding season, Great Blue Herons may be seen in New Hampshire, but during winter in the southeast, some can also be seen. Summer checklists and winter checklists submitted by birdwatchers for the state contain them, accounting for 12% and 1%, respectively.

The biggest heron native to North America is the Great Blue Heron, which is a huge, magnificent bird.

They have a black plume that extends from the front of their eyes to the back of their heads, with a white face. Their bills are orange-yellow in color.

Grayish-blue bodies, long gray legs, and 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, although those that breed in the Midwestern and southern countries migrate south.

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

Great Blue Herons may be found in a variety of wetland habitats. 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’ diet.

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 over water, diving in, jumping feet-first from perches, and floating on the water’s surface are some of the options they have.

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

Because Great Blue Herons reuse their nests, they may gradually expand and develop them over time.

The female lays two to seven eggs after that. The eggs are incubated for around four weeks by both parents.

Fun Fact: With their heads thrown back, Great Blue Herons guard their feeding area with spectacular outstretched wing displays.

2. Great Egret

In New Hampshire, Great Egrets breed during the summer and make up 1% of the checklists. They begin migrating in November after arriving in March.

Males have neon green facial skin and extremely long, wispy feathers (aigrettes) stretching from their backs to their tails during the breeding season, which they display during courting like a peacock does. Great Egrets are at their finest then.

They’re known as Great White Herons because they’re huge all-white herons. Common egrets are another name for these birds. These huge birds have long, straight black legs and feet and dagger-like, long beaks. They are white.

Males, females, and juveniles appear similar when they are not breeding.

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

The worldwide range of Great Egrets is enormous. Those in the southern and coastal United States stay here all year, whereas those in more northern climates migrate 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 will stand motionless on the water, waiting for their prey and spying it before striking and spearing it with their long bills.

In colonies, Great Egret nests may be found. To safeguard the nests from predators like raccoons, they are frequently placed high in trees, preferably on islands.

sticks, twigs, and marsh plant stems are used to make them. The females lay up to six eggs, and both parents spend around twenty-five days incubating them.

Fun Fact: Because of their lengthy white feathers (aigrettes), the Great Egret was nearly wiped out. These feathers were primarily utilized to dress ladies’ headgear.

3. Green Heron

During the breeding season, from mid-April to October, Green Herons may be seen mostly in southern New Hampshire. Summer checklists include them at a rate of 2%.

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

In the breeding season, their bills turn black, with two-toned, dark on top and yellow at the bottom. Their iris and legs, too, become orange with their passage.

Chestnut or maroon in color, their heads, necks, and breasts. They feature a long, white stripe down the length of their neck. They have gray bellies.

Browner, with dark heads and a crest, juveniles are more visible.

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

Before moving south, green herons breed mostly in the eastern United States and the Pacific Coast. Those who live along the Gulf Coast, in the Caribbean, or in Mexico, on the other hand, will stay all year.

Green Herons may be found in damp environments with thick vegetation, such as bogs, marshes, lakes, and ponds. They may stay in dry woods or orchards if there are water sources nearby, although they prefer coastal and inland wetlands.

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

Green Heron nests are built in trees high above water, but some may leave them on the ground, hidden under vegetation.

Females lay two to six eggs every two days, alternating them. The final egg is deposited, and both parents start incubating approximately twenty days later. When their eggs hatch, they both feed their young.

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 do so.

4. Snowy Egret

During the summer of April through October, snowy egrets may be seen in southeastern New Hampshire, with 1% of checklists reporting them at this time.

Snowy Egrets are little, all-white herons with a name that suggests this. They feature long, black bills, long, black legs, and brilliant yellow feet with yellow irises and skin around their eyes.

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

Surprisingly, during aggressive encounters, these parts of their bodies become bright red.

Adults have head plumes, whereas juveniles do not. Their bills and legs are also lighter in color, and the lores and legs are more greenish-yellow.

  • 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 travel throughout most states. In Mexico, Central, and South America, they stay throughout the year.

Snowy Egrets may be found in marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes, and estuaries in shallow, wetland environments. Swamp forests with protective trees and plants are their preferred nesting habitats.

Fish, crustaceans, snails, frogs, and crayfish are all hunted by snowy egrets in shallow water. They may rest quietly and hope for prey to arrive or they may stir up the water in order for their prey to surface, making it simpler for them to capture.

Males choose the locations for Snowy Egret nests. They choose a spot and put on a full show for their potential mates. Males continue to offer sticks, sedges, or reeds while the female constructs the nest as they couple up.

Nesting sites are normally found in trees or shrubs on the ground. Both parents incubate their eggs, which the female lays two to six at a time. The incubation period is normally twenty-four days.

Fun Fact: Because of their lovely white head feathers, which were often used as a hat embellishment or accessory, snowy egrets were on the verge of extinction.

5. American Bittern

New Hampshire is home to American Bitterns, but their numbers soar during the spring migration from May to June. During migration, they appear in 1% of checklists.

In the spring of the American Bittern, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the strange watery boom calls long before you see them. Below you’ll find a few examples…

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

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

They have small legs and yellow eyes that change to orange during courting.

  • 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 home to American Bitterns almost exclusively.

Search for them among the rough vegetation on the margins of lakes and ponds.

The diet of American Bitterns is fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals. They forage stealthily amongst the reeds, staying still and silent, waiting for their prey to come closer, and then dart forward quickly to capture them in their bills.

American Bittern nests may be discovered in the water, blending in with coarse vegetation. Females select a nest location and construct it with nearby reeds, sedges, cattails, and other plants.

They incubate seven eggs for around twenty-six days before laying them. The females feed the chicks straight into their beaks when they are born. They leave the nest two weeks after they first hatched, and it takes six to seven weeks for them to be completely grown.

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

6. Black-crowned Night-Heron

From July through September, black-crowned night-herons may be seen in southeastern New Hampshire.

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 species.

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

The lores (in front of the eye, towards the beak) are green-blue, while their eyes are red. They’re pale on the bottom and darker on the back. They have yellow legs and feet.

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

  • Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Length: 25 – 28 in (64 – 71 cm)
  • Weight: 38.8 oz (1100 g)
  • Wingspan: 44 – 45 in (112 – 114 cm)

On their grayish-brown skin, juveniles have some streaking and spotting.

The global range of Black-crowned Night-herons is enormous. They breed in the United States and Canada before moving south in North America. Along the coasts, some of them remain year-round.

Wetland habitats, such as shallow freshwater or brackish rivers, are home to Black-crowned Night-herons. Artificial habitats such as reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds are also utilized to them.

Black-crowned Night-herons eat whatever they can find, such as crayfish and fish and even turtles or worms, while they are night-eatingers.

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.

7. Little Blue Heron

From April through October, Little Blue Herons may be found in southeastern New Hampshire.

Little Blue Herons are a little bigger than expected. With long, stretched bodies, they range in size from medium to huge. Their heads and necks are adorned with dangling feathers, giving them a purplish tinge.

During the breeding season, their eyes might become gray-green. Two-toned – pale blue or grayish with black tips – their long, dagger-like bills are two-toned. They have slate-blue skin. They have gray-green, sometimes black, legs.

Before becoming a combination 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 throughout the eastern United States, although those along the Gulf Coast and Mexico do so throughout the year.

Watery areas, such as swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, ditches, fish hatcheries, and flooded fields are all habitats for Little Blue Herons.

Compared to other herons, Little Blue Herons hunt in a more elegant manner. Instead of dashing about in the water, they simply stand and wait for their prey in shallow waters.

Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, mice, and insects are among the foods of Little Blue Herons. Adults forage alone, whereas juveniles prefer to be part of mixed groups.

Little Blue Heron nests are constructed of sticks and, like other heron species, are found in colonies. Up to six eggs are deposited by the female. For up to twenty-four days, both parents share in the incubation.

Fun Fact: Juvenile Little Blue Herons’ presence among Snowy Egrets allows them to capture more fish and gain additional protection from predators, as a result of their white coloring.

8. Least Bittern

In New Hampshire, least bitterns are not particularly frequent, but from May through September, they have been detected in the state’s southeast.

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

They have a black bill and purple cap, with a dark top to their yellow beak. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.

They have a dark cap and yellow bill with brown and white hues. They grip the reeds with their long toes and claws.

With lighter backs and crowns, adult females and juveniles resemble 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, but they may stray into North America on occasion.

Least Bitterns may be found in watery marshlands with a lot of tall cattails and reeds, particularly in denser freshwater. When they perch on reeds, look for them.

They’ll instantly stiffen up, raise their bills to the sky, and sway in unison with the reeds when they sense danger.

Little fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, slugs, dragonflies, aquatic insects, and occasionally mice make up the diet of Least Bitterns. They rest on the reeds, twisting and turning themselves in order to reach their intended victim in the water’s surface.

The female of the Least Bitterns erects well-concealed nests from cattails and marsh vegetation. The eggs are laid by her, and she and her spouse incubate them for around twenty days. They then regurgitate food to feed newly hatched chicks.

Fun Fact: The neck of the Least Bitterns is rather lengthy, although it is usually bent.

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

During migration, yellow-crowned night-herons may be seen in southeastern New Hampshire, but they are not especially common.

Yellow crowns with two plumes extend from the heads of adult yellow-crowned night herons. Their bills are large, and they’re black. Their remaining heads are black, with a tiny white patch on the sides beneath their eyes.

As they grew up, their eyes became red and alternated between yellow, orange, and red.

Their wings are scaled and their bodies are gray-blue. During the breeding season, their legs lengthen and turn purple, pink, or red.

Grayish-brown juveniles with white streaks and spots cover their entire bodies. 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 nightherons breed mostly 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 lot of crustaceans, shallow waters, and accessible feeding opportunities, you may observe Yellow-crowned Night-herons at daybreak and dusk.

The main crustaceans eaten by Yellow-crowned Night-herons are crabs and crayfish. Fish, insects, worms, mollusks, lizards, snakes, rodents, and birds are also among the foods they eat. They can devour tiny creatures in a flash.

Crabs are frequently killed by being dismembered or stabbed.

Yellow-crowned Night-heron nests are most commonly found in tiny, loose colonies, with water as the focal point. Both parents construct the nests using grass, leaves, or moss-softened sticks and twigs.

After that, she lays eight eggs and spends three weeks incubating them together. The chicks are fed using regurgitation when they hatch. They fledge after roughly a month and can fly independently after fifty days.

Fun Fact: A lethal mosquito-borne illness (EEE) virus may harm horses and humans, and Yellow-crowned Night-herons might transmit it.

10. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Herons have been observed during migration in southeastern New Hampshire, albeit this is not a common sight.

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

Adults that are non-breeding have blue-gray, purple, and white feathers in their mix. Their bills have a black tip and are yellowish or greyish. Yellow or olive green is the color of their legs and feet.

The back of their heads, as well as the base of their beaks, become blue during breeding adults. On their necks and backs, they have finer feathers. Their legs, too, acquire a reddish tone.

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, along the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and northern South America, Tricolored Herons remain. Those who breed farther north migrate south along the Atlantic Coast.

Freshwater and brackish marshes, estuaries, and coastal tidal pools or swamps are all places where you may find Tricolored Herons.

Herons, like the Tricolored Heron, are solitary feeders that defend their feeding grounds. Other wading birds that seek to feed on their area and enjoy eating tiny fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects will be chased away by them.

They’ll be stalking, running after, standing waiting for their victim, and possibly waiting. Before striking, they squat low in the water, their bellies pressed to the surface and their necks drawn in.

Tricolored Heron nests are made of sticks and placed in trees and shrubs, forming colonies. The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents spend three weeks incubating them before they hatch. The babies 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.

11. Cattle Egret

In New Hampshire, you may observe Cattle Egrets on their way south during migration.

Cattle Egrets utilize a clever technique of catching their prey…they stand on the backs of cattle and when the cattle shift and disturb the earth, they capture the shifting meal.

Cattle Egrets have pale orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs. They are tiny, short-necked egrets with white bodies.

Their irises and skin are golden. Short, yellow bills and greenish-black legs characterize them. Males and females have a similar appearance.

During the breeding season, Cattle Egrets turn brighter, and their color changes from bright to dull.

Their pale orange patches darken during the breeding season. During the height of their courting, their bills, legs, and irises turn 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)

In North America, Cattle Egrets may be found throughout the year, with the exception of those in Mexico’s south, the Gulf Coast, and southern states.

Yet, after breeding, those who breed farther north travel south, notably in the eastern United States.

Native grasslands, meadows, agricultural fields, and rice fields, especially those with hoofed livestock, are ideal places to find Cattle Egrets.

They do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, such as riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes, though they prefer to stay on land and atop cattle. Golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks are all other places where they may be found.

Insects, mostly grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths make up the diet of Cattle Egrets. Spiders, frogs, tiny snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish are also among the foods they consume.

Cattle Egret nests are constructed in woodlands near lakes or rivers, on small islands, and are formed of sticks and reeds. They are normally created in colonies.

The female lays nine eggs, which take approximately twenty-five days to hatch. The young take roughly 45 days to develop, fledge, and become completely independent of their parents.

Fun Fact: Rather than correcting for light refraction when feeding in water, the Cattle Egret’s eyes have evolved to allow it to see distance on land and judge prey.

12. Little Egret

In New Hampshire, tiny egrets are an uncommon sight and have been designated as an accidental species. In 2019, they were last seen at Rockingham.

The white-bodied Little Egret is the only one. Long, slender necks, black bills with yellow lores, black legs with yellow toes, and yellow feet characterize these birds.

Little Egrets’ backs, lower throats, and backs are covered in wispy feathers during the breeding season. At the peak of courtship, their face skin becomes red, and their feet become pink or red.

In addition, black morphs have a blue-grey color instead of white.

Juvies have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet, and they appear the same as adults but are more grayish/brownish.

  • Egretta garzetta
  • Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 17.6 oz (499 g)
  • Wingspan: 34 – 41 in (86 – 104 cm)

Little Egrets are regular visitors to Europe, Asia, and Africa, but have been known to visit the United States and Canada on occasion.

Little Egrets may be seen in wetlands like lakeshores, riverbanks, ponds, lagoons, marshes, and canals; however, they may also feed in fish ponds.

Little Egrets either stay still and wait for fish to approach or disturb the water to scare them away as their primary food.

Little Egret nests are frequently constructed on high up in the trees or shrubs, in reed beds or mangroves, and are made of platform sticks. The material for constructing is usually found by males, and it is carried by females.

The female lays six eggs, which are incubated by both parents for over three weeks. For almost two weeks, both parents are responsible for their kid. After six weeks, they fledge.

Fun Fact: Due to the craze for feathers used in fashion at that period, the Little Egrets became extinct in Ireland and Great Britain.

13. Western Reef-Heron

In New Hampshire, Western Reef-Herons are an accidental species, and they have only been documented in Rockingham in 2006, according to records.

With a long narrow neck and beak, black legs, and yellow feet, Western Reef Herons are thin-bodied. They have two long feathers on their nape and their bills turn completely black during the breeding season, when their yellow feet change to orange or red.

The Dark and White phenotypes of Western Reef Herons are available. The white morphs have white bodies, whereas the Dark Morph has grayish-black bodies. Their eyes are yellow, and their legs are black with yellow feet.

  • Egretta gularis
  • Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 14.1 oz (400 g)
  • Wingspan: 40 – 43 in (102 – 109 cm)

While they may visit the United States on occasion, Western Reef Herons are typically found in Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. They’re usually found near the water’s edge.

Fish, crustaceans, amphibians, mollusks, tiny reptiles, and birds are among the foods offered to Western Reef Herons. They’ll either stay still and wait for the prey to come to them, or they’ll shuffle their feet in the shallow water until it rises to the surface.

Western Reef Heron nests look like platforms and are built out of sticks and branches. When the first egg is placed, females lay three to five eggs and begin incubation. The eggs incubate for twenty-four days before hatching, thanks to both parents’ involvement.

Fun Fact: In 1983, the first American sighting of Western Reef Herons was on Nantucket, and they have since been seen many more times.

How Frequently Herons Are Spotted In New Hampshire In Summer And Winter

Checklists are a fantastic way to discover which birds are most often seen in your area. On checklists on ebird in the summer and winter of New Hampshire, these lists show which herons are most often recorded.

Herons in New Hampshire in summer:

Great Blue Heron 12.3%

Green Heron 2.6%

Snowy Egret 1.5%

Great Egret 1.3%

American Bittern 1.2%

Black-crowned Night-Heron 0.2%

Least Bittern 0.2%

Little Blue Heron 0.1%

Tricolored Heron 0.1%

Little Egret <0.1%

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron <0.1%

Cattle Egret <0.1%

Herons in New Hampshire in winter:

Great Blue Heron 1.0%

Black-crowned Night-Heron <0.1%

American Bittern <0.1%

Great Egret <0.1%

Little Blue Heron <0.1%

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