All Herons of California with Pictures

Let’s explore the most common herons living in California with pictures and pertinent data! All information provided is authentic, obtained from trustworthy sources, and affirmed by a professional Ornithologist.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

(Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird that can be found in bodies of water throughout California. Measuring between 3 and 4.5 feet tall with a wingspan up to 6 feet, the Great Blue Heron is one of the largest herons in North America. It has long legs with yellowish toes, a long neck, and a large black bill with a yellow tip. It has slate-gray wings and back with a white head and underparts. The Great Blue Heron is an opportunistic feeder, consuming anything from small mammals to fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, insects, worms, and carrion.

The Great Blue Heron is a year-round resident in California, living near streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, marshes, saltwater bays and estuaries. During the summer months they will often congregate in large numbers to nest in colonies called heronries. They build their nests with sticks high up in trees or on top of the mounds of earth called islets.

The Great Blue Heron is mostly solitary, but can be seen in small groups, often standing motionless waiting to ambush prey. They are active both during the day and night, usually in pursuit of food. If a heron feels threatened it will fly away with its legs dangling behind it or tuck them close to its body. When flying, their necks are usually retracted so as not to strain the ligaments that attach the neck muscles. They may also soar with their wings held in a shallow V shape and their head drawn back between their shoulders.

The Great Blue Heron is an iconic species of California’s wetlands, making it an important part of our natural heritage. Its presence is a sign of a healthy environment, so it is essential that we protect and conserve its habitat for future generations to enjoy.

Great Blue Heron range map

Great Egret

Great Egret

(Ardea alba) The Great Egret is a large species of heron native to North and South America. It has a white plumage with a long neck and yellow bill. Its average size is 24-38 inches with a wingspan of 40-54 inches, allowing it to easily take flight in search of food.

In California, Great Egrets can be found in a variety of habitats including wetlands, marshes, estuaries, and mudflats. They are typically solitary foragers, feeding on small fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects. Occasionally they will hunt in shallow water with other Great Egrets or Herons.

Great Egrets are known to be quite social and can often be found nesting in colonies of other herons, ibises, egrets, and cormorants. They nest in trees or shrubs located near the edge of fresh or brackish waters. These birds usually migrate south during the winter months.

The Great Egret is a beautiful species of heron that can add a splash of color to the otherwise grey California sky. It is a popular bird among birdwatchers and hunters alike. These birds are also important to local ecosystems because they feed on pests such as mosquitos.

Great Egret range map

American Bittern

American Bittern

(Botaurus lentiginosus) is a member of the heron family found in California. It is a large heron, standing up to four feet tall and weighing up to two pounds. Its body is mostly brownish-gray with spots of chestnut and white on its head and neck.

The American Bittern has an omnivorous diet consisting of fish, frogs, snakes, small mammals, insects and other invertebrates. It typically feeds in shallow wetlands or along edges of marshes and ponds.

The American Bittern inhabits freshwater and brackish wetland habitats throughout California during breeding season. They are found mostly in coastal areas with salt marshes, tidal creeks, and saltwater tidal estuaries.

The American Bittern is a solitary bird that is seen alone or in pairs. It prefers to remain hidden among reeds and tall grasses, where it stands still waiting for prey to come close enough to capture. It also uses its camouflage plumage as a defense against predators. It can also fly low over the water and land quickly to capture prey.

This heron nests in a variety of wetlands, including freshwater marshes, swamps, wet meadows, flooded fields and tidal creeks. The nest is constructed from sticks and built on an elevated platform or shallow depression near water’s edge. It typically lays two to four eggs which hatch in about three weeks.

American Bittern range map

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

(Nycticorax nycticorax) is a medium-sized heron, native to California. It has black legs and feet and a white throat with brown streaks on the upper breast. Its back and wings are grayish-brown in color while its head is black with a delicate white line running along the crown. Black-crowned Night-Herons usually feed on a variety of aquatic creatures such as fish, crustaceans, frogs, snakes and invertebrates. They can grow up to 24 inches in length with a wingspan of 40 inches.

Black-crowned Night-Herons typically inhabit wetlands and coastal areas throughout California, nesting in trees and shrubs near water. During the day they are usually found perching in trees or low vegetation, and at night they may be seen flying around the area searching for food. They often hunt by standing still in shallow water waiting to ambush their prey before diving down to capture it. They are solitary birds that travel alone but can sometimes gather in large groups to feed in open wetlands. They are also known to be aggressive while defending their territory.

Black-crowned Night-Heron range map

Green Heron

Green Heron

(Butorides virescens) is a small heron, approximately 20 inches long, that lives in the wetlands of California. It has a black cap on its head and greenish-black feathers on its neck, upper body and wings. Its bill is yellowish and its legs are grey.

The Green Heron eats mostly fish but also eats insects, frogs and crustaceans. It is usually seen near the water’s edge where it perches on branches and stalks its prey.

Green Herons are found in wetlands throughout California, including coastal marshes, rivers and some lakes. They nest in trees near water sources and can sometimes be seen flying between nesting sites and feeding areas.

Green Herons are usually solitary birds, but during breeding season they can be found in pairs or small groups. They can also be seen flying in flocks with other herons and egrets. They have a loud squawking call and will often squabble to defend their territories. Green Herons are territorial and may perform aerial displays during breeding season. They are also known to “bob” their heads or wings in order to attract a mate or scare away a potential rival.

Green Herons can be unusually bold birds, often approaching people and boats for food. However, it is important that people do not feed these birds as it can lead to dependency on human food sources and potential health problems. It is also important not to disturb these birds while they are nesting in order to ensure successful breeding.

Green Heron range map

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

(Nyctanassa violacea) is a large wading bird found throughout the coastal areas of California. The average size of this heron is about 20 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 40 inches. It has a brownish-grey body and neck, and yellow crown and lores (the area between the bill and eyes).

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons feed mainly on fish, frogs, crayfish, aquatic insects and occasionally small animals. They will also eat carrion (dead animals). They hunt for food by wading in shallow waters or walking slowly around the edges of these wet areas.

This heron is found in most of the coastal areas of California, including marshes, estuaries, mudflats and mangrove swamps. They are also known to inhabit small ponds and lakes near the coast.

When not breeding or looking for food, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons will often stand still when disturbed by people or predators. They may also fly off rapidly when disturbed. During the breeding season, they become quite vocal and can be heard making various loud calls during the night.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron range map

Reddish Egret

Reddish egret1

(Egretta rufescens) is a heron species that can be found in the coastal regions of western North America, ranging from central California to Gulf of Mexico. This species has a distinctive appearance due to its dark body and striking white crown and neck feathers. Reddish Egrets typically reach lengths of 26-38 inches and can weigh between 1-3 pounds.

Within California, Reddish Egrets can be found in estuaries and lagoons of the Pacific coast. They inhabit brackish marshes, mudflats, and mangrove swamps where they hunt for their prey – mostly small fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians and reptiles. These birds often engage in a feeding behavior called “bowing” to stir up prey, repeatedly bowing its head and body down into the water and then quickly throwing it back up again.

Reddish Egrets are usually solitary birds, but can be seen in small groups as they search for food or roost together during migration. Although their population is secure, the species is vulnerable to human disturbance of its habitat and is listed as a species of special concern. Efforts are being taken to protect and conserve these birds in California by limiting the destruction of coastal wetlands. With the right conservation efforts, Reddish Egrets may be able to thrive in California for many years to come.

Reddish Egret range map

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

(Egretta tricolor) is a medium-sized heron found in the coastal areas of California. They have a slender and elegant body, which can grow up to 1.5 feet tall. Tricolored Herons are greyish blue in color with white under parts, while their necks are brown or black with white stripes. They have a long beak and yellow legs.

Tricolored Herons feed on fish, amphibians, crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates, small reptiles, insects and some plants. They usually hunt in shallow water and use their long neck to help them spot prey from a distance.

Tricolored Herons live in marshes, estuaries, wetlands, flooded meadows and alongside rivers and lakes. They are migratory birds that can be found across North America from the east coast to California during summer months but usually move south to Central or South America for winter.

Tricolored Herons are especially active at dawn and dusk when they look for food and like to rest during the day under shrubs or trees. They are usually seen alone or in small groups, but congregate in large numbers during breeding season.

During this time they perform courtship displays such as head-bobbing and wing flapping, before building a nest of twigs and other plants with their mate. The female will lay up to four light blue eggs, which she and her mate will take turns incubating. When hatched, the young ones are fed by their parents until they can fend for themselves.

Tricolored Heron range map

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula, is a heron found in the estuarine, freshwater, and saltwater wetlands of California. It is easy to identify with its white and grey coloration, yellow bill, bright yellow feet and black legs. These birds have long neck and slender bodies that measure between 22-26 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 36-41 inches.

The Snowy Egret feeds mainly on aquatic prey such as fish, frogs, crayfish and shrimp. They hunt by standing still in shallow water and then stabbing their prey with a quick thrust of their bill. The diet can also consist of insects and small reptiles.

These herons are found in coastal areas, salt marshes and brackish wetlands. They also inhabit estuarine islands, mudflats and freshwater ponds as they are seen widely throughout the state of California.

The behavior of Snowy Egrets is often observed during mating season when they gather in groups to perform courtship displays with their wings spread wide open showing the colorful plumes. This species is also known for engaging in a behavior called “Foot tremor” which is used to attract prey from the mud and water below them.

Snowy Egret range map

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

(Bubulcus ibis) is a species of heron found in California. It is usually a medium-sized bird with white plumage, yellow bill and feet, and red head plumes during the breeding season. Adults have short wings, long legs, and a short tail. They inhabit freshwater wetlands such as marshes and ponds, as well as agricultural fields, grasslands, and other open areas.

The Cattle Egret feeds mostly on insects such as grasshoppers, locusts, and beetles. Additionally, they also feed on small fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, snails and small mammals. They hunt by walking slowly through shallow water or in open areas, then waiting for their prey to appear. They typically hunt during the day, and will often follow herds of livestock as they search for food.

Cattle Egrets measure between 21–26 inches in length and weigh between 8.8–16 ounces. Generally these birds produce two broods in a year, laying 2-6 eggs each time. Both parents take part in incubating the eggs, which can last up to 25 days. The young fledge at around 30 days old and become independent shortly afterwards.

Cattle Egret range map

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

(Egretta caerulea) is a species of heron native to North, Central and South America. It has a blue-gray body with white head and neck, black bill, yellow legs and eyes, and long plumes on its wings. This bird typically measures about 24 inches (61 cm) in length.

The Little Blue Heron lives in shallow wetlands, marshes, ponds and lagoons. It feeds on small fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects. Its diet consists mainly of minnows, shrimps and crayfish.

This heron can be found along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Baja California, including parts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Mexico. It also can be located in some inland regions along the coast.

It is a solitary heron which breeds in colonies with other species of herons such as Great Egrets or Cattle Egrets. During breeding season its plumage turns to a dark slaty blue. It nests in trees close to water, usually in colonies of other heron species.

Little Blue Herons are silent birds except during mating season when they may give off a low croak. They are also very alert and wary of their surroundings, taking flight quickly if disturbed. It is an excellent wader, often seen stalking its prey in shallow water.

The Little Blue Heron is a unique and interesting bird to observe. Its colorful plumage, solitary nature and fascinating behaviors make it an enjoyable species to watch. With its presence in California, it serves as an important part of the ecosystem by providing natural pest control and helping keep fish populations balanced.

Little Blue Heron range map

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

(Ixobrychus exilis) is a small heron species found in California. It has a length of 20 to 24 inches, with the females being larger than males. Its wingspan is 28-30 inches and it weighs around 3 ounces. This bird has a brownish grey body covered in black speckles, with a buff-colored neck and face spotted with black. Its eyes are yellow, and it has a thin pointed bill.

The Least Bittern is usually found in shallow wetlands such as marshes, ponds, flooded meadows or reed beds. It prefers areas of dense vegetation where it can hide easily from predators. These birds feed on various aquatic creatures, such as crayfish, insects, small fish and amphibians.

The Least Bittern is solitary and shy in nature, usually staying still while scanning the water for prey. It will fly away if disturbed or approached too closely. The breeding season starts from April to June when it builds a basket-like nest made of reeds and other vegetation, usually connected over water. It lays 2-6 eggs in the nest, which take 17 to 21 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest after 6 to 8 weeks. During winter, these herons migrate south along the coast of California.

Least Bittern range map

Are there herons in California?

Yes, there are several species of herons found in California. Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets and Black-Crowned Night Herons can all be seen in areas throughout the state. They can often be spotted near wetlands and marshes, or along bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and estuaries.

They also inhabit man-made water sources, like retention ponds and golf courses. Many of these heron species are year-round residents, while others migrate seasonally to other parts of the country. Herons can be seen in greater numbers during spring and summer when they congregate to nest and raise their young.

Are herons rare in California?

The answer to this question depends on the region of California you are referring to. In general, herons are not considered rare in California, but they can be difficult to spot in some areas.

Herons can be found throughout most of California’s coastal regions and inland areas close to rivers or lakes, such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Central Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area. They are even spotted in some of California’s desert areas during migration season. Herons may also be seen at locations such as state parks, nature reserves, and wetlands.

However, their numbers can vary depending on habitat availability and water conditions. In general, herons are not considered endangered in California, but their populations are closely monitored due to possible repercussions from changes in the environment.

What is the difference between egrets and herons?

Egrets are smaller than herons and have a more slender body. They also tend to have white or light-colored feathers, while herons may be gray, blue, brown, or black. Egrets often live in wetland habitats like marshes, swamps, and shallow ponds, while herons can also be found near estuaries and lakes. Egrets feed mainly on small fish, frogs, and insects, while herons tend to eat larger prey such as snakes and small mammals. Both species are found throughout the world but egrets are more widespread than herons.

In addition to physical differences, egrets often form large colonies when breeding while heron nests are usually smaller and more scattered. Egrets are also known for their spectacular courtship displays, which involve a series of leaps and dives in the air. Heron courtship display is much simpler, involving only a few head bobs or postures. Both species are excellent swimmers and can be seen wading through shallow waters searching for food.

Did I see a crane or a heron?

No, it was an egret! Egrets are a type of heron that is white and can be found around the world. They eat small fish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures. They also have long legs and necks which help them reach for food in shallow water.

Egrets are beautiful birds to watch as they fly gracefully across the sky. They are also important to their ecosystems, as they help keep the water clean by eating small insects.