8 Types of Herons in Oklahoma

Types of Herons in Oklahoma
Photo by Karl Callwood

Herons are large wading birds with long legs, necks, and pointed beaks adapted to feast on fish.

Different types of herons in Oklahoma can be found in both rural and urban natural areas throughout the state.

They include the great blue heron, the little blue heron, the tricolored heron, the black-crowned night heron, the yellow-crowned night heron, the green heron, and the wood stork cinnamon teal (also known as the striated egret), the white ibis and glossy ibis. 

Each of these types of herons in Oklahoma is unique in size to color variation and offers us amazing opportunities to observe them on nature walks or from our backyard feeders.

Let’s get started on our blog list of types of herons in Oklahoma.  

1. Great Blue Heron

Great Blue
by ZionNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Great Blue Heron is first on our list of types of herons in Oklahoma. It is a common species of heron found throughout the state of Oklahoma.

This majestic bird has been a part of the diverse wildlife in our great state for many years and is one of the few migratory species that remain here year-round. 

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large, long-legged wading bird that stands up to four feet tall with a wingspan up to six feet wide.

The plumage varies from shades of gray and white to rusty browns and slate blues. They feed primarily on small fish, frogs, crustaceans, mammals, reptiles, and other animals they can catch. 

Great blue herons are typically seen near water or wetlands with abundant food sources like rivers, ponds, lakes, and marshes.

Oklahoma is home to many natural drinks of water, making it an ideal place for these beautiful birds to live and hunt all year. 

Aside from their size and beauty, what makes these types of herons in Oklahoma fascinating is their ability to adapt.

In Oklahoma, they can be seen in many habitats, such as grasslands and upland forests, because they understand how to take advantage of landscape changes for the best success rates during hunting season.

They have also adapted well to human presence by learning how humans act around them to avoid being disturbed while fishing or nesting. 

Great blue herons are not only elegant creatures but also helpful ones; their diet mostly consists of pests such as insects, rodents, or reptiles, saving farmers lots of money otherwise spent on pest control methods.

Their importance in our ecosystem goes beyond pest removal, showcasing why we must protect them so future generations can enjoy the beauty these types of herons in Oklahoma bring!

2. 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 one of the types of herons in Oklahoma.

This bird typically has a black crown, wings, and back with white streaks; white to gray breast and belly; chestnut-colored neck, wings, and tail; and yellow legs.

Its habitat usually includes open fields, woodlands, and marshes close to water sources such as streams, lakes, and rivers. 

The Black-crowned Night-Heron often builds its nest in trees near water sources between April and May, laying 2 – 5 pale blue eggs which hatch in 3 – 4 weeks.

A solitary night hunter mainly feeds on fish, frogs, crustaceans, insects, and even small reptiles. It flies low over the water on its short, powerful wings, making it an efficient predator. 

While it can be seen in Oklahoma year-round, there are fewer numbers during the Winter months, so keep your eyes open while exploring the marshy parts of the landscape if you want to get lucky enough to spot the Black-crowned Night-Heron!

3. Little Blue Heron

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

The Little Blue Heron is a beautiful member of the heron family that can be found in areas like Oklahoma and beyond.

This unique bird has different characteristics than other herons, including its small size, distinctive markings, and behavior. 

The Little Blue Heron is one of the smallest types of herons in Oklahoma, with an average length of just over two feet.

They have dark bluish-gray feathers on their bodies and neck, their wings are black with white tips, and their bellies are white.

Little Blue Herons also have yellow legs, pink wading legs, and long bills. 

Unlike most types of herons in Oklahoma that hunt for fish in deep waters or pools, these small birds prefer shallow water instead, where they can paddle around in search of food like frogs, insects, crustaceans, and small fish.

You’ll often see the Little Blue Heron standing still on one leg in shallow marshes as it hunts for food.

Adult birds might stretch out their necks during mating season to show off their bright blue throats as they strut around looking to attract potential mates! 

The Little Blue Heron may be small, but its beauty is undeniable; this elegant heron adds a wonderful touch of nature to any habitat it inhabits!

If you’re lucky enough to spot one next time you head outdoors, watch it carefully.

You might witness some interesting feeding habits or impressive displays during mating season!

4. Great Egret

The Great Egret is a species of large wading bird endemic to Oklahoma.

It is a member of the heron family, one of the largest of all types of herons in Oklahoma found in North America. 

The Great Egret has white plumage, long black legs, and a long yellow bill. While this species was once near threatened due to overhunting for its plumes, it has steadily recovered in recent years.

It can now be spotted across the plains, wetlands, rivers, and moist forests from the Canadian border all the way south into Mexico.

In Oklahoma specifically, they are most commonly found along large bodies of water such as Lake Texoma or Atoka Reservoir.

5. Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Cattle Egret is a species of small heron found throughout Oklahoma. Its distinctive white plumage and yellow hue makes it an unmistakable bird in the state.

It typically lives in wetlands, forest margins, pastures, grasslands, and other wet habitats such as swamps and marshes.

It often feeds closer to water or moist ground than other herons, making it an important component of healthy wetland food webs. 

Cattle Egrets also play an important role in helping control conditions favorable for livestock by consuming insects that can interfere with the growth and health of herds.

They are strong fliers with long wings and a characteristic slow flap when in flight, making them easily distinguishable from other heron species.

Cattle Egrets are common when birding throughout the Great Plains region of Oklahoma.

6. Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret - Types of Herons in Wisconsin
by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Snowy Egret is a beautiful species of heron native to North America, and Oklahoma is lucky enough to see large populations of this majestic bird.

As part of the heron family in Oklahoma, these types of herons in Oklahoma provide great sights for bird watchers, young and old. 

The snowy egret, also known as Egretta thula, can be identified by its brilliant white feathers and distinctive yellow feet, reaching up to ten inches long.

From head to toe, it usually measures between 20-25 inches in length and weighs 12-19 ounces. 

The snowy egret can be found along any body of water in Oklahoma, including ponds, creeks, rivers, and lakes.

They are solitary feeders using their long legs and bill to spot prey like small fish or amphibians from shorelines or shallow pools in wetlands. 

During the breeding season, you can also observe them gathering in colonies in open waters, constructing bulky nests made out of twigs at tree tops or even on the ground.

On the underside, their plumage turns yellow during springtime when they pair off with a mate and start reproducing.

After egg-laying, female birds continue hunting while males stay close by the nest, defending their territory against intruders such as hawks or other birds trying to steal or attack eggs. 

Given that snowy egrets feed mainly on fish food sources, they can find plenty of opportunities to feast during the summer months.

When various species are spawning using, these herons as a vital member that helps maintain balance throughout any aquatic habitats around Oklahoma, providing more nutrients for all types of wildlife that call this place home, including us humans!

7. Least Bittern

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

The Least Bittern is a type of heron native to Oklahoma and can be found in wetlands across the state.

It is a small bird, measuring 10 inches long, with brown and white mottled feathers covering its body.

The Least Bittern can often be spotted along the side of ponds, lakes, or rivers as it hunts for small prey like fish, shrimp, and frogs.

Let’s take a closer look at this unique bird and its environment! 

The Least Bittern is the smallest member of the heron family. As its name suggests, it is smaller than other herons, measuring 10 inches long from bill to tail.

It has a short neck, short legs, and almost no tail-ea feature it shares with several relatives.

Its feathers have brown and white mottling, which help camouflage it on either shoreline or floating vegetation, making them difficult to spot but providing excellent protection while they hunt. 

Least Bitterns are wetland types of herons in Oklahoma that inhabit swamps, marshes, or lakes with abundant aquatic vegetation like cattails and bulrushes.

They can also be found along flooded meadows or even slow-moving rivers as long as there are ample surface plants for cover.

During the breeding season, they build their nests in dense reed beds near shorelines, providing good concealment from predators. 

The Least bittern feeds primarily on small fish, including minnows, but they also consume amphibians such as frogs, salamanders, crayfish, and marine shrimp when available.

Their diet reflects their habitat preferences of shallow water with plenty of plant life, making them an important part of Oklahoma’s wetland ecosystems.

8. Yellow-crowned Night-heron

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

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is last on our list of types of herons in Oklahoma.

It is a species of herons found in various parts of the United States, including Oklahoma.

This interesting bird is known for its colorful plumage and habit of eating small rodents and amphibians. 

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is a medium-sized bird with a body length of up to 27 inches and a wingspan reaching 42 inches.

The mating season of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron typically occurs between March and October in Oklahoma.

During these months, males and females may select nesting sites near water sources such as swamps, ponds, rivers, or lakes.

The nests are usually constructed from sticks, twigs, and other debris collected around the nest site. 

Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks until they are old enough to fly away from the nest.

During this time, they will feed exclusively on aquatic creatures such as insects, crustaceans, frogs, and small fish items.

If a food source gets scarce, they have been known to also feast upon ducks or even small mammals if available in their vicinity during spring migration times in Oklahoma. 

In addition to being hunted by local indigenous populations for food, another threat faced by the yellow-crowned night heron is human infrastructure encroaching upon traditional nesting grounds for these animals.

Conservationists suggest cutting back on the excessive building near riverfronts or wetlands would help ensure these majestic types of herons in Oklahoma won’t suffer a further decline in numbers across Oklahoma’s great outdoors anytime soon!


After analyzing the study conducted on herons in Oklahoma, it can be concluded that although species of herons are reported to occur in the state.

Only a few of these types of herons in Oklahoma have been observed to breed in the state, with Great and Snowy Egrets being two of them. 

Green-backed Heron also breeds primarily along rivers like the Arkansas River or Deep Fork River.

Furthermore, single pairs of Black-crowned Night Heron were recorded from Lake Thunderbird, southern McCurtain County, and Atoka County.

Therefore, this emphasizes the importance of widespread tracking and monitoring research on types of herons in Oklahoma due to climate change or other potential threats looking for safe habitats for these species.

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