11 Different Types of Herons in Maryland

Types of Herons in Maryland
Photo by Steve Smith

Do you know how many types of herons in Maryland? If not, you’re not alone.

Even experienced birders may be astounded at the types of herons in Maryland, their varied shapes and sizes, their habitats, and the frequency with which they can be seen in the state.

Herons are large, long-legged birds found throughout much of the world.

Maryland is home to several species of these aquatic birds that inhabit freshwater wetlands, wooded swamps, tidal marshes, and shorelines.

Whether it’s a great blue heron stalking prey in a shallow marsh pond or a green heron perched atop an arched oak limb, these majestic creatures are graceful and attractive.

Although all herons have a distinct appearance, amateur birders will likely be confused about the exact types that live in Maryland.

Our article will explore some of the most common types of herons in Maryland and discuss their characteristics.

1. Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron - Types of Herons in Michigan
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Great Blue Heron is starting our list of types of herons in Maryland.

Its slender build and long legs make this bird easy to spot, and its distinctive croaking call can be heard throughout the state. 

The Great Blue Heron is one of the largest North American herons, measuring up to four feet in height, with wingspans reaching over five feet.

The adult feathers are mostly gray, with a pale chest and dark bill, eyes, and legs. 

These types of herons in Maryland feed on small animals such as fish, rodents, frogs, and snakes.

During nesting season, they can often be seen gathering sticks for their nest near ponds or streams filled with their favorite type of prey.

2. American Bittern

American Bittern - Types of Herons in Michigan
by Kelly Colgan Azar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is also on our list of types of herons in Maryland.

It is a  heron species native to Maryland and other parts of North America. It largely inhabits marshlands, swamps, shallow ponds, and wet meadows. 

During its breeding season, the bird displays an interesting mating call that sounds like a “pump-er-link” or “burruck.” American Bitterns often have streaked brown feathers on their necks and heads that can help identify them.

They feed on fish, frogs, leeches, insects, and crustaceans, which they can capture by standing in wait in shallow waters and estuaries until their prey passes.

The American Bittern often nests near water but travels away from it during the winter months to build short-term roosts in reeds or bushes. 

Despite living mostly solitary lives during non-breeding seasons, they form colonies during the breeding season to defend territorial boundaries.

Despite their prehistoric appearance, American Bitterns are listed as the least concerned, with an estimate of between 190 000 – 540 000 individual birds still living across North America today!

3. Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Types of Herons in Michigan
by blinkingidiot is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Yellow-crowned night heron is a species of heron found in Maryland and other states on the eastern coast of the United States.

This medium-sized heron stands about 2 feet tall and has gray feathers, yellow legs and beak, and a yellow crown. Its wingspan can reach 3 to 4 feet in length. 

These types of herons in Maryland feed mainly on small fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, small reptiles, and mollusks by standing still or slowly walking around shallow water while they wait to grab their prey with their sharp bill.

During the nighttime, they can roost on trees near slow-moving wetlands used for fishing and rocky shorelines alongside rivers. 

The Yellow-crowned Night-Herons nest in colonies of pairs from April to July consisting of twigs lined with plant-down material that may have blue and pink flowers attached, depending on the time of year.

These birds show aggression during nesting season when protecting their eggs or young ones by performing wing-slapping displays and vocalizing harsh calls.

4. Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron
by Damiyan83 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Black-crowned Night Heron(Nycticorax nycticorax) is a type of heron found in many habitats throughout Maryland, ranging from freshwater wetlands to near-coastal marine ecosystems.

At first glance, the bird stands out for its black hood and jaunty white eyebrows, hence the name. 

It is more than just a pretty face; it’s also an excellent hunter and fisher.

Its sharp yellow beak is perfect for grabbing passing insects, frogs, and fish, and it is capable of an impressive amount of stealth and diving down in case of danger or when hunting prey. 

Additionally, the Black-crowned Night Heron has been seen congregating in large numbers at heronries during the summer months.

This social behavior can be a great sight to witness while out birding or enjoying nature in Maryland!

5. Least Bittern

Least Bittern
by stanlupo (Thanks for 4,000,000 views) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Least Bittern is a heron endemic to Maryland and other parts of the eastern United States.

With its crisp golden-brown feathers, white throat, and black-streaked breast, it stands out as one of the most colorful and unique types of herons in Maryland found in the Chesapeake Bay area. 

Smaller than similarly sized bitterns, such as American Bittern, Least Bitterns can often be spotted by their low, coursing flight pattern near reed beds or marshes along rivers and in woodlands.

Although they have adapted well to human development, this ecologically fragile species is still considered vulnerable due to habitat destruction and drastic population decline around North America over the last several decades.

To ensure that these types of herons in Maryland remain protected from further threats from both hunting and degradation of its wetlands habitat, Maryland has enacted protective measures for least bitterns within state borders.

6. Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret - Types of Herons in Michigan
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Snowy Egret is a species of heron that can be found in the state of Maryland, USA.

Its striking white plumage and long, yellow legs make it easily recognizable among other herons.

Throughout the winter months, they will move south to take in more food sources but are typically seen year-round in Maryland.

The Snowy Egret is especially known for its showy displays while nesting, where it stands with its wings outstretched and vibrates its feathers, raising and lowering its head as part of some courtship rituals during the breeding season. 

This type of heron prefers wetlands and estuaries with abundant food sources such as shrimp or small fish.

They sometimes search for prey on land, like frogs and beetles, using their long beaks to locate them under rocks or logs.

7. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron - Types of Herons in Michigan
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is a heron species in Maryland, United States. It is a medium-sized heron with a long neck, slender body, and long legs. 

The Tricolored Heron usually stands still in the water, waiting for its prey to come close before quickly striking.

This distinctive-looking bird has a slate-gray back and wings, yellowish breasts, and a white belly giving it the distinctive ‘tricolored’ look.

The face has a black mask around the eyes reaching the mid-breast area and a yellowish-orange bill that tends to nest near fresh and saltwater wetlands. 

In Maryland, they can be seen as early as late April when they start their migration from the southern parts of North America, heading up towards the Chesapeake Bay Region, where their breeding grounds are located and where most will spend summers.

8. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron - Types of Herons in Michigan
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is found throughout Maryland.

It is one of Maryland’s smallest North American types of herons, measuring 20-24 inches long and weighing only 5-8 ounces. 

The Little Blue Heron can be identified by its gray or white coloring with light blue accents on its head, neck, back, and wings.

It also has sharp yellow feet and legs contrasting nicely against its dark bill. As an adult, it has a long, shaggy crest on its nape and a bright orange patch of skin around its eyes.

In addition to Maryland, this species of herons can be found in wetlands, woodlands, and shallow marshes throughout the southwestern United States and Central America. 

Both adults and juveniles will feed mainly on small fish, amphibians, or crustaceans, as well as peanut worms, leeches, or small insects when available.

They will often search for food while still roosting in trees to pick their prey quickly before they are spooked away by predators or boats passing by the water’s edge!

9. Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
by Bernard Spragg is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a heron species native to Maryland and other states in the Eastern United States.

It is a large, white bird with black legs and feet, having a contrasting bright yellow bill.

This species often frequents pastures and grasslands near livestock animals as it largely feeds on insects stirred up by such movement. 

The typical diet includes insects such as grasshoppers but can be supplemented with smaller reptiles like lizards.

They also feed on small rodents, amphibians, and earthworms found along or within the waterways where they forage.

The Cattle Egret is monogamous, typically only forming one life-long pair bond with their mate, although some may engage in floater behavior and not consistently mate with the same partner from year to year. 

Breeding usually occurs from April through June, when both genders build bulky nests to lay their eggs upon.

Both parents take part in incubation duties (usually alternating hours each day) until the eggs hatch after about 21 days, depending on temperatures around the nest site.

10. Great Egret

Great Egret - Birds With White Wings
by coniferconifer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Great Egret is one of Maryland’s most common types of herons.

With its long, slender neck and bright white feathers, it can easily be spotted standing or slowly walking through the marshlands of Maryland. 

The Great Egret feeds mainly on fish but eats other small animals like frogs and snakes.

They often search for prey in shallow water, using the motion of their feet to stir up unseen creatures.

During mating season, males stand atop foliage and call out for a potential mate. 

These types of herons in Maryland are an important species in the Chesapeake Bay because they help keep unwanted populations of small fish and insects at bay by feeding on them regularly.

They are also an important indicator species for environmental health; their presence signals an abundance of food, which generally implies a healthy ecosystem and thriving marshes.

11. Green Heron

Green Heron
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is ending our list of types of herons in Maryland.

It is a species of wading bird that is native to Maryland and is commonly seen in a variety of habitats such as wetlands, ponds, lakes, beaches, and marshes.

It prefers shallow waters to feed on its main diet of fish, crustaceans, snails, and insects near the shore or in open water. 

The Green Heron is an easily identifiable species due to its size and unique plumage.

It has a stocky build with olive green feathers on the back and chest covering an otherwise white belly.

Its forehead is blue-gray with a black crown and throat; its legs are gray; its bill is yellow-green but sometimes appears black during the breeding season. 

This heron species may be observed fishing by standing still in shallow water while watching for potential prey, or they can dive after prey while swimming.

The Green Heron breeds throughout Maryland during the early Spring months and can often be seen in family groups of two parents and 1 up to 3 chicks.


In conclusion, Maryland is home to a wide variety of herons that can be found throughout its many regions.

These types of herons in Maryland include black-crowned night heron, little blue heron, green heron, great blue heron, and others listed above on our list. 

Each of these types of herons in Maryland has its unique behavior and preferred habitat within the state, allowing them to coexist despite sometimes competing for the same resources.

Researching these different types of herons in Maryland and understanding how they interact in their environments helps to give insight into Maryland’s diverse wildlife population.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like