7 Types of Herons in Florida

Last Updated on November 20, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

Seeing a heron of some kind is almost certain in each body of water you visit.

These beautiful birds like to feed in areas with shallow water, where they may wade about and explore for food.

Species of herons, including the Great Blue Heron, are readily identifiable when they appear in the vicinity.

However, keep a sharp eye out for less obvious species in areas with plenty of submerged vegetation.

ImageName
Common Blue HeronCommon Blue Heron
Least BitternLeast Bittern
Little Blue HeronLittle Blue Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-HeronYellow-crowned Night-Heron
Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron
Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron
Green HeronGreen Heron

Types of Herons in Florida

1. Common Blue Heron

Common Blue Heron
Credits – iNaturalist

There are many Great Blue Herons across Florida, as they are included on 24% of summertime checklists and 33% of wintertime checklists.

There is no other heron larger than the Great Blue Heron in North America.

White skin covers their whole face, and a black crest or feather spreads from their eyes to the rear of their skulls.

The color of their bills is somewhere between orange and yellow.

Their long, grey necks are streaked with black and white on the front, and their torso and legs are muted blue-gray.

However, Great Blue Herons that nest in the Midwest and Canada go south during the winter, leaving the species’ wintering grounds in the southern states.

One subspecies of the Great Blue Heron found across Florida is the Great White Heron, so-named because of its white plumage.

Habitat & Food

Great Blue Herons are common sights in wetlands of many kinds. They are also found throughout flooded marshes, mangrove bogs, lake borders, and shorelines, as well as in both saltwater and freshwater wetlands.

A Great Blue Heron’s food consists mostly of frogs, fish, salamanders, grasshoppers, crabs, shrimps, dragonflies, and other aquatic insects.

Wading or standing in the water is where they make the most kills. They can float mostly on the water’s surface, fly above the water, dive into the water, leap feet-first from high places, and more.

Great Blue Herons often build their nests in large colonies on the branches of trees near bodies of water. Sticks and twigs are woven together and then filled with a softer substance to create the nests.

Because Great Blue Herons often return to the same nests throughout the years, it’s possible that the nests have been expanded via maintenance and additions.

Afterward, the female will lay anywhere from 2 to 7 eggs. In the course of about four weeks, both parents take turns tending to the eggs.

Great blue herons will tilt their heads back in stunning displays of wing spread while defending their feeding zone.

2. Least Bittern

Least Bittern
Credits – Wikipedia

Least Bitterns may be found across Florida throughout the year, although their numbers peak from mid-March to September.

They feature on 3% of summertime shopping lists. Least Bitterns are the tiniest herons throughout the Americas and can be difficult to see among the reeds, although they may be heard first.

They are brown and white in color, with a black cap and dark tip to their yellow beak. They possess large toes and claws for gripping the reeds.

Adult females and adolescents have lighter backs and heads than males.

Little Bitterns are mostly found throughout Africa and Europe, although they do sometimes go into North America.

Habitat & Food

Least Bitterns may be found in thick freshwater and brackish wetlands with numerous tall cattails and reeds. Check for them perched on reeds. When they detect danger, they freeze, lift their bills to the sky, and swing in sync with the reeds.

Small fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, snails, dragonflies, aquatic invertebrates, and even mice make up the diet of Least Bitterns.

They take up positions on the reeds, sometimes undergoing acrobatic contortions to get their victim on the edge of the water.

Least Bittern nests are well-hidden platforms made by the female from cattails and marsh plants.

She hatches a maximum of seven eggs, which are incubated for around twenty days by both parents. They then regurgitate food to feed freshly born babies.

3. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Florida is home to a large population of little blue herons, and you may see them almost any time of the year. Only 21% of summertime lists have them, whereas 29% of winter ones do.

The mature Little Blue Herons are much larger than their names suggest.

Their bodies are long and slender, and they range in size from medium to giant.

They possess a purple tinge to their heads and necks, and a tuft of plumage hangs down the back of each of their necks.

During the mating season, their delicate yellow eyes might take on a gray-green hue. Long and dagger-like, their bills have a light blue or grey color with a black tip.

The whole of their bodies has a dark blue color. Their lengthy, dark-to-grayish-green legs are striking.

Within their first year of existence, juvenile Little Blue Herons will have some grey and blue feathers mixed in with their white plumage.

While Little Blue Herons across the eastern United States breed and then migrate south, those living in the Gulf of South America and Mexico stay there year-round.

Habitat & Food

Swamps, fish hatcheries, marshes, canals, streams, tidal flats, lagoons, ponds, ditches, and flooded fields are just some of the places you could see a Little Blue Heron. 

When compared to certain other herons, Little Blue Herons have a more elegant foraging action. They sit patiently in shallow water instead of racing about the ocean floor.

Fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, crabs, mice, and insects make up the bulk of a Little Blue Heron’s diet.

Most adults go out hunting by themselves, while young birds like to congregate in families or small groups.

Little Blue Herons build stick nests, and those nests are often shared with some other herons. Females may deposit anything from two to six eggs.

The incubation period, which may last up to twenty-four days, is shared by both parents.

Juvenile Little Blue Herons are often seen in the company of Snowy Egrets, which helps the Snowy Egrets capture more fish and avoid predators due to the Little Blue Herons’ white plumage.

4. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Although they are most numerous during June and July, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons may be seen in Florida throughout the year.

Five percent of summertime lists have them, but just three percent of winter ones do.

The heads of mature Yellow-crowned Night Herons are capped with two yellow feathers. Their massive black banknotes stand out in a crowd. In contrast to the blackness of the rest of their skulls, the areas just below their eyes are a little patch of white.

Their bodies are a bluish-gray color, and their wings have a scaly appearance. During mating season, their long, yellow legs take on a pink, coral, or red hue.

Juveniles are born with a uniform greyish-brown coloring with various white patches and lines.

It takes them three years to reach their adult appearance.

Range

The breeding grounds of the Yellow-crowned Night-heron are in the southern states of the United States. They winter across the Caribbean, Mexico, and northwestern South America.

Food

At dawn and dusk, Yellow-crowned Night-herons may be seen feeding along the coasts where there are plenty of shallow seas, crustaceans, and substantial margins.

Most Yellow-crowned Night-diet herons consist of crustaceans such as crayfish and crabs. In addition to insects, fish, worms, lizards, mollusks, snakes, birds, and rodents make up their diet. Their mouths are like sieves, able to quickly consume tiny prey.

Both parents work together to construct the nests from leaves, grass, or moss woven between sticks and twigs.

They then spend about three weeks incubating up to eight eggs. Chicks are given regurgitated food after they hatch.

After approximately a month, around the fifty-day mark, they leave the nest and are able to fly by themselves.

5. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Florida has tricolored herons throughout the year long, and they are on 18% of summertime checklists and 23% of wintertime checklists.

Tricolored Herons are easily distinguished from other herons because of the white stripe that runs over their bellies and necks.

Adults that are not in the process of reproducing possess feathers that are various shades of blue- purple, gray, and white.

The end of their yellowish or gray bills is tipped with black. They have yellow or olive-green lower feet and legs.

Thin, white feathers emerge from the rear of a mating adult’s head, and the bottom of their beak turns blue. Their back and neck plumage are likewise of a higher quality.

The color of their legs also changes to crimson.

The neck, upper back, upper chest, and wings of juveniles are reddish brown than the rest of the birds.

Along the Gulf Coast, across Mexico, and in northern South America, tricolored herons are permanent residents. Some of the Atlantic Coast’s breeding population moves south after the breeding season.

Habitat & Food

Tricolored Herons inhabit a wide variety of wetland habitats, including freshwater and saltwater marshes, estuaries, and coastal mudflats and swamps.

Tricolored Herons often forage alone and are fiercely protective of their territory.

They are aggressive against other wading birds that encroach on their area, and their diet consists mostly of frogs, tiny fish, insects, and crabs.

You can count on seeing them in the act of stalking, pursuing, standing, and ready to pounce on their victim.

Crouching on the water’s surface with their abdomens touching and their necks pulled in, they strike with a mighty swoop.

6. Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned night Heron

Throughout the year, Floridians may look forward to sightings of the Black-crowned Night-Heron, which is included in 5% of both summertime and wintertime checklists.

The Black-crowned Night Heron, often known as the Night Heron, does not look like other herons.

It has a shorter beak, neck, and legs and is bulkier overall. At maturity, the black cap of an adult Black-crowned Night-heron extends from a white line over their black bills.

Their lores (the part in front of the eye that extends towards the bill) are greenish blue, but their eyes are red. The backs are darker, while the undersides are white.

They have yellow lower legs and feet.

Two or three white plumages emerge on the crown, and the bird’s normally black head and back take on a glossy blue-green hue during the mating season.

In addition to their newfound black coloration, lores’ lower extremities take on a rosy hue.

The range of black-crowned night herons is extensive. They hatch in the United States and Canada before making the long journey south.

It’s possible that some coastal residents stay put throughout the year.

Habitat & Food

The Black-crowned Night-heron is a bird that prefers wetlands with shallow freshwater or saltwater river environments.

They have adapted to man-made environments, including canals, ponds, and reservoirs.

The Black-crowned Night-heron is a nocturnal feeder that consumes whatever it can discover, including worms, fish, crayfish, turtles, and even insects.

The female will hatch anywhere from 2 to 7 eggs at two-day intervals. The eggs are incubated for around 24 days by both parents after they are deposited.

For almost three weeks, the parents will tend to their young.

7. Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Herons may be seen in Florida throughout the year, although the months of March through September are prime viewing.

Fifteen percent of summertime checklists and nine percent of wintertime checklists include them, respectively.

It takes a closer look at a Green Heron to see the glossy green-black coloration of its crest, head, wings, and back that give the bird its common name.

Their normally two-toned (top dark, bottom yellow) bills become all-black during mating season. Both their eyes and legs change color from yellow to orange.

Their upper bodies, including their necks, heads, and chests, are dark chestnut or maroon.

These neckties are black with a white vertical stripe along the front. They have a grey underbelly. Young ones have more of a crest and are a darker brown overall.

Green Herons migrate south after breeding on the east and along the west coast of the United States.

Those in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Mexico, however, stay open year-round.

Habitat & Food

Green Herons inhabit wetlands with plenty of vegetation, such as marshlands, swamps, ponds, and lakes.

They like wetter environments like those by the coast or in the interior, but they will also make their home in dry woodlands or orchards if there is a source of water around.

Green Herons eat a wide variety of animals, including insects, tiny fish, spiders, snails, crabs, reptiles, rodents, and amphibians.

They prefer to hunt from the beach instead of going out into the water, where they may be easily swept away by the current.

Green Herons build their nests of straight, thin twigs up in the trees above water; however, some species have been seen leaving their nests on the land, concealed by vegetation.

Females may hatch a maximum of six eggs at a time, spacing each one out by two days.

After the last egg has now been deposited, the twenty-day incubation period, during which both parents tend to the eggs, begins. Upon hatching, both species provide nourishment for their offspring.

It is among the rare known examples of a bird species employing tools for foraging since green herons have been seen utilizing bait consisting of bread, twigs, plumage, and leaves to successfully capture their food.

Conclusion

Herons are typically water-loving birds that may be spotted around the sea, freshwater, or perhaps even your garden lake for a fast lunch.

If you are interested in seeing any Herons in Florida, grab your camera and walk outdoors to capture these magnificent birds.

FAQ

How do you recognize a heron?

Excellent Blue From a distance, herons resemble blue-gray with a broad black band above the eye. The top part of the wings is two-toned during flight, with pale forewing feathers and darkish flight plumage. In coastal southern Florida, a pure whitish subspecies exists.

Which heron is most common?

The Great Blue Heron represents the most common and plentiful heron across North America. It may be found along the shores of most rivers and lakes.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.