9 Different Types of Herons in North America

Different Types of Herons in North America
Photo by Dulcey Lima

Herons are an incredible bird species, and North America is home to various types of herons.

From the majestic Great Blue Heron to the elegant Snowy Egret, these types of herons in North America bring a unique beauty to the continent’s many ecosystems. 

In our blog post, we’ll explore the various types of herons in North America, their habitats, diet, and more.

Whether an experienced birdwatcher or a novice naturalist, you will surely learn something new about these fascinating types of herons in North America.

So let’s get started!

1. American Bittern

The American Bittern Types of Herons in Ohio
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The American Bittern is first on our list of types of herons in North America. It is a small heron species native to North America.

This species has a striking appearance with its brownish-gray feathers, yellow-green bill, and bright yellow legs. 

The types of herons in North America measure approximately 34 inches in length and are easily identified by their distinctive pumping movement while hunting for food.

This species inhabits freshwater, saltwater wetlands, and other areas such as marshes, swamps, and flooded fields.

It feeds mainly on frogs, fish, insects, and small rodents, which it captures using its long neck and sharp beak.

During the breeding season, the American Bittern is known for its unique vocalizations, which consist of a series of low, eerie “pumping” sounds that can be heard from miles away. Males use these to attract a mate and defend their territory. 

The female American Bittern builds a nest of plant material on the ground near water and lays 3-4 eggs.

The chicks fledge after about 30 days and become independent at about 5 weeks old.

The American Bittern is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN. However, its population has declined due to habitat loss caused by drainage and the development of wetlands.

Conservation efforts focus on protecting remaining wetland habitats, providing adequate nesting and feeding sites, and restoring areas where possible.

2. Great White Heron

Great White Heron
by sonstroem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Great White Heron is one of the most iconic and easily recognizable types of herons in North America.

They are the largest heron species in North America and can be identified by their pure white feathers, long black legs, and yellow feet. 

Great White Herons can be found along both coasts and the Gulf Coast of the United States and Canada and often inhabit coastal wetlands, mangrove swamps, tidal flats, and shorelines.

Their diet consists mostly of fish and small crustaceans, and they use their long legs and neck to wade through shallow waters and hunt their prey.

3. Western Reef Heron

Western Reef Heron
by Traveling PhotoBlogger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis) is a medium-sized heron that inhabits the coastal regions of western North America and Mexico.

It is a long-legged, long-necked bird with bright yellow eyes, a hooked bill, and a distinctive black back with white spots. 

The Western Reef Heron is found in salt marshes and rocky coasts, where it feeds on fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic prey.

The species has a low population size and range and is threatened by habitat destruction and human disturbance. 

This species typically has black legs and feet, a white belly, and a white head with a black stripe running from its eye to the base of its neck. The upper parts are black, streaked with white spots.

These types of herons in North America measure up to 65 cm in length and have an average wingspan of 110 cm. Juveniles have dark brownish feathers with pale streaks on their heads.

The Western Reef Heron is mostly active during the day but can also be seen foraging at night.

During breeding, males establish territories near the shoreline and defend themselves from other males. 

Nesting usually occurs in spring and summer, with pairs building nests in mangrove trees or shrubs.

The female types of herons in North America lay 3-5 eggs, which both parents incubate for around 21 days. The young herons fledge at around 40 days old. 

The Western Reef Heron is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to its limited range and small population size.

Its populations are further threatened by habitat destruction and human disturbance, especially along its migratory routes.

Conservation efforts are needed to ensure the long-term survival of this species in North America.

4. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Tricolored Heron is a stunning species of heron found in North America.

It is also known as the Louisiana Heron or the Louisiana White-Tipped Heron due to its preferred habitats in the Gulf Coast states. 

The adult Tricolored Heron has beautiful, intricate plumage that consists of blue-gray feathers on its neck, back, and wings and white feathers on its belly.

Its bill is black, and its eyes are dark brown. It stands about 2 feet tall, making it one of the smaller heron species.

The Tricolored Heron can be found along the coasts of the Gulf Coast, from Mexico up to Texas. They are also seen in marshes, swamps, shallow coastal waters, and lakes. 

These types of herons in North America primarily eat small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans, catching their prey by standing still in shallow water and using their sharp vision to spot movement. They will also use their long, thin bills to catch prey.

Tricolored Herons have several adaptations that help them survive in their environments.

Their long, slender legs allow them to wade through shallow waters, and their sharp vision helps them locate potential prey. 

They also have a loud, distinctive call, which they use to locate food and communicate with one another.

This heron species can live up to 15 years in the wild and is currently listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.

5. Bare-Throated Tiger Heron

Bare-Throated Tiger Heron
by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Bare-Throated Tiger Heron, or Tigrisoma mexicanum, is also one of North America’s most fascinating types of herons.

It is native to the southeastern United States and parts of Mexico. The bird is a large wading bird with a striking black and white coloration.

Its head and neck are covered in black feathers, while its back and wings are white. It has a long yellow bill and yellow legs and feet. 

This heron can be found in shallow wetlands, such as marshes and swamps. They feed on various aquatic organisms, including fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and mollusks. 

During the breeding season, they build large nests of sticks that hang over the water. They lay between two and four eggs at a time. 

The Bare-Throated Tiger Heron is an important part of the ecosystem in its native habitat.

It plays an important role in controlling populations of fish, amphibians, and other animals that live in wetlands. 

Unfortunately, its population is declining due to habitat loss from agricultural and urban development.

This heron is vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

6. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
by btrentler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is next on our list of types of herons in North America.

It is a small heron species native to North America. It is primarily found in coastal regions, wetlands, mudflats, and rivers. 

The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron has distinctive plumage, with its gray upper parts, yellow crown and neck, and black streaks on its throat. Its legs and feet are typically yellowish-green in color.

This species is generally quite active during the day and can often be seen foraging for food along the water’s edge. 

The diet of the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron consists mainly of small fish, crustaceans, insects, and other aquatic creatures.

The breeding season for this species usually occurs between April and July, with the female typically laying up to six eggs. 

Both the male and female types of herons in North America take part in incubating the eggs and rearing the young.

The nests of the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron are usually built in trees, shrubs, or bushes near water.

This species is considered threatened primarily due to habitat destruction and degradation caused by human activities.

The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is a beautiful species of heron that is an important part of the North American ecosystem.

Its unique plumage makes it easily distinguishable from other herons, and its presence in wetlands, mudflats, and rivers provides important services to people and wildlife alike.

Conservation efforts must be made to ensure this species’ survival in North America for many years to come.

7. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Little Blue Heron is a small heron found throughout North America.

It is smaller than many of the other herons in the region and has a unique slate-blue coloring.

They inhabit shallow bodies of water, particularly wetlands, and feed on small aquatic animals, such as fish, frogs, and insects.

The Little Blue Heron typically nests in colonies near bodies of water, though they have been known to nest in trees further inland.

Their colonies consist of multiple birds nesting together, and these birds often stay with their partners for many years. 

Both sexes develop dark blue or black plumage during the breeding season and are especially vocal.

Little Blue Herons are not considered endangered but are impacted by human development.

Pollution, destruction of wetland habitats, and hunting can all contribute to their declining population.

Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of the environment and conserve wetland habitats to protect these beautiful types of herons in North America.

8. Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Black-Crowned Night Heron is a stunning waterbird native to North America, easily distinguishable by its black cap, back, and white belly.

They are most often seen in wetlands, where they search for fish and other small aquatic animals to eat.

They can also be seen near rivers, ponds, lakes, and estuaries. Their wings’ distinctive “V” shape makes them easy to spot when they fly. 

In the summer months, they breed in colonies along the coasts of the US and Canada.

They typically build their nests in trees, though they sometimes make them on the ground if no suitable trees are nearby. 

During mating season, both parents incubate the eggs and raise their young.

Black-Crowned Night Herons have various calls and vocalizations, including loud honking and high-pitched squeals.

These sounds can often echo across wetlands, especially during the breeding season. 

Unfortunately, due to the destruction of their natural habitats, these types of herons in North American populations have decreased in recent years.

Nevertheless, the Black-Crowned Night Heron remains a fascinating and beautiful bird species throughout North America.

9. Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lastly, The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird throughout North America.

The Great Blue Heron stands out in any wetland setting with its unmistakable blue-gray plumage and white head. 

It is a majestic bird with a wingspan that can reach up to 6 feet across. Its long legs allow it to wade deep into the water to find its prey.

The Great Blue Heron primarily feeds on fish and small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

It hunts by standing motionless at the edge of a pond or shallow area, waiting for prey to swim past before lunging at it with its sharp bill.

It also has been known to snatch insects from the air and swoop down to the water’s surface to snag them.

The Great Blue Heron can be found in various wetland habitats throughout North America. It prefers wooded areas, shallow marshes, and quiet ponds not disturbed by human activity.

It also breeds in large colonies called heronries and is known for its elaborate courtship displays and loud calls.


North America is home to many species of herons, making it a great destination for birders who want to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitats.

From the stately Great Blue Heron to the diminutive Green Heron, a variety of different herons can be seen throughout North America.

In this blog post, we discussed the different types of herons found in North America and their unique characteristics and habits.  

With the right research and equipment, you can even participate in bird-watching activities to witness these beautiful types of herons in North America in their natural habitats.

No matter what type of heron species you are interested in, North America will surely have something for you.

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