9 Types of Herons in Ohio (With Pictures)

Types of Herons in Ohio
Photo by Paul Crook

Ohio has some of the most beautiful birds, including various herons.

Herons come in various sizes, from small to large, and populate lakes, ponds, and marshes all over Ohio’s diverse ecosystems. Have you ever seen the types of herons in Ohio? 

Did you know that different types of herons in Ohio can be commonly seen in the state? Herons are a group of long-legged freshwater and coastal birds with a wide range worldwide.

Herons have been spotted in Ohio’s neighborhoods, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. They are revered for their graceful presence and are characterized by their long necks and sharp bills. 

Our article will discuss the different types of herons in Ohio, as well as the distinguishing characteristics of each one.

1. Great Blue Heron

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

The Great Blue Heron is starting our list of types of herons in Ohio. It is a species of heron found in the wetlands of Ohio. 

The Great Blue Heron can be easily identified by its long and lanky legs and its blue-gray feathers, often highlighted with bold streaks.

They can grow quite large and have wingspans that measure up to six feet wide! 

Ohio’s majestic types of herons mainly feed on fish but will also take small mammals, reptiles, and even invertebrates.

They’re known to stand very still while they fish, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings and keep an eye out for possible prey.

During the spring months in Ohio, these birds build large nesting colonies near bodies of water where they feed and breed. 

In the wintertime, these birds migrate south to warmer climates, where they can find abundant food sources.

Great Blue Herons are a vital part of the wildlife ecosystems across the country and in Ohio, making them an important species for us to protect.

2. American Bittern

The American Bittern
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The American Bittern is also on our list of types of herons in Ohio. It is an impressive species of heron known for its distinctive brown, buff, and black-mottled plumage.

Found throughout North America, this heron species commonly visits wetlands in Ohio as part of their seasonal migration. 

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is a type of heron that breeds in wetlands across North America.

This large bird measures about 27 inches long with a wingspan close to 47 inches and can weigh up to 3 pounds.

It has a beautiful mottled pattern on its feathers that range from brown, buff, and yellowish-brown with stripes and streaks of black along its sides and back. 

At breeding time, the male American Bittern performs unique “bobbing” displays while making loud “booming” sounds which are thought to act as communication to attract mates.

They feed mainly on fish but also eat amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, small mammals, and insects when available.

During the fall months, they can be seen migrating southwards in preparation for the winter months, when they return north again during springtime. 

American Bitterns are easily identifiable by their coloring and large size, but blending in perfectly against the reeds they inhabit makes them more difficult to spot than other water birds, such as egrets or cranes.

This species is frequently spotted hunting near reeds and wetland areas throughout Ohio.

It is an interesting sight for nature lovers eager to observe these fascinating types of herons in Ohio in their natural setting up close.

3. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is one of the most abundant herons in Ohio.

These types of herons in Ohio have existed throughout the state for centuries, found along rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and even marshes and wetlands. 

This heron species has a distinct yellow crown and dark gray or black coloring across the body. Their bill and legs are long, with webs between their toes to help them walk on muddy surfaces.

They feed primarily on small fishes, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates like crayfish or shrimp during the daylight hours. 

These types of herons in Ohio also emit a loud clunk when disturbed.

While not endangered in Ohio, their population numbers are declining due to habitat destruction and pesticide use in local waterways.

4. Green Heron

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a small wading bird that stands about 20 inches tall when fully grown.

These types of herons in Ohio have a wide range across North America and even further south into Central America. 

They live near-shore bodies of water such as marshes and swamps, making them iconic staples of Ohio’s freshwater ecosystem.

Their long neck and dark green back distinguish them from similar-looking species like the Great Blue Heron.

5. Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron 
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a species of heron that can be found in Ohio.

These types of herons in Ohio are large and stocky, with a distinctive black crest on their head, a light grayish body, and bright yellow eyes.

They predominantly feed on small aquatic animals such as frogs and fish but will also hunt for spiders and insects. 

Black-crowned Night-Herons can be found along the edges of lakes, rivers, ponds, and swamps throughout the state during their breeding season.

In Ohio, their nests are usually big platform-shaped structures built from twigs lined with vegetation that is situated near water. 

After the nesting season has ended, these types of herons in Ohio will migrate to other parts of North America, such as Florida and the Caribbean, where they spend the winter months.

They are important species that help keep local ecosystems healthy by controlling populations of amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.

6. Great Egret

Great Egret
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Great Egret is a species of heron native to Ohio and other parts of North America.

The grand, white bird stands three feet tall, with a long S-curved neck and a long black pointed beak that can catch fish from shallow streams or marshes. 

These majestic types of herons in Ohio live in swamps and wetlands around Ohio, where they hunt for fish, snakes, and frogs.

In the summer, they lay three to five blue-green eggs hatching in June. Great Egrets are one of several species of wading birds often found in the Ohio wetlands during migration season.

Other types include the Black-crowned Night Heron, Tricolored Heron, and Green Heron.

7. Least Bittern

Least Bittern
by ethan.gosnell2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) is an intriguing type of heron commonly found in Ohio and many of its surrounding states.

This species is the smallest member of the heron family, just under one foot tall and weighing less than 4 ounces. 

As its name implies, it prefers shallow wetlands filled with thick vegetation and extensive reed beds, making them excellent habitats for these baritone-voiced birds.

As a migratory species, Least Bitterns typically arrive in Ohio in mid-April and depart anywhere between mid-to-late September.

They mainly feed upon small fish, invertebrates, and amphibians they find while wading through shallow pools.

However, they occasionally peek their heads out from the vegetation to search for grazing insects or frogs. 

Despite threats from habitat destruction and environmental pollutants, Least Bittern populations remain healthy throughout southeastern Ohio due to active management efforts by state wildlife officials.

For those interested in witnessing these delightful aquatic songbirds up close, be sure to spend some time in certain wetlands across the state!

8. Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
by Koshyk, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Cattle Egret is a species of heron that is native to Ohio.

Its scientific name is Bubulcus ibis, and it’s found in wetlands ranging from slow-running creeks and streams to marshes and swamps.

The Cattle Egret is a medium-sized wading bird species with long legs and a long bill, giving it the iconic silhouette of the typical heron.

These types of herons in Ohio have light gray or white plumage with some black on the wings, head, neck, and upper breast.

In addition to their unique colors, this species also sports two yellow eyes resembling two big bulbs in dark chestnut feathers.

They often make an “arrk” vocalization which helps signal other birds in their flock when nesting or foraging for food. 

The Cattle Egret can typically be seen in open grasslands within its range, feeding on insects or roosting on trees near water sources like oxbow lakes.

This beautiful bird can even drink while walking around looking for small crustaceans and mollusks in shallow waters

During the breeding season, they form nests with many eggs upon tall trees near open pasture areas where they can find enough food to survive and raise their young safely away from predators while still being able to find food quickly.

9. Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
by blmiers2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Lastly, The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is an unmistakable member of the heron’s family.

Found primarily throughout the Americas, they are most common in Ohio in late summer and autumn, when they visit wetlands near woodlands to feed on fish, frogs, and crustaceans. 

The Snowy Egret has a unique appearance among herons: it has a small black bill, black legs, and feet, white plumes on its neck, back, and wings, and yellow lines, which give it an eye-catching look on the water.

They can typically be found wading in shallow water or perched atop tall trees overlooking meadows for prey. 

To survive Ohio’s cool winters with few suitable wetland spots for food.

Snowy Egrets migrate yearly to their southern breeding grounds in Florida, Texas, and other warm climates where fish can be plentiful during the winter months.


Herons are beautiful, majestic birds of prey with long legs and wings that make them adept at various aquatic behaviors.

There are different species of these magnificent types of herons in Ohio.

Our blog article has explored Ohio’s different types of herons and their importance to the state’s ecosystem.

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