How to Identify Herons

How to Identify Herons
Herons are birds that live close to water. Herons have long legs and necks and sharp bills, which they use to stab prey as they forage in shallow waters. Some of the more common herons in the United States differ greatly in size and appearance but can be identified if the observer knows what to look for.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Step 1
Identify herons by their habitat and behavior. Herons live near lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, marshes, swamps and bays. They will wade into the water where they will remain motionless as they scan the water for fish, frogs, snails, snakes, crayfish and other aquatic life.
Step 2
Identify great blue herons by their size. The largest of the North American herons, great blues can be as tall as 72 inches. They have blue-gray feathers, long necks, crested heads, and bills shaped almost like a dagger. They can have a wingspan of up to 82 inches, and they flap their wings slowly as they fly.
Step 3
Identify green herons by their colors and one of their habits. These smaller herons have greenish-gray upper parts, but their heads and necks are brownish in color and their bellies are a duller shade of brown. If you frighten these herons, they will utter a squawking sound as they fly away, defecating as they take off.
Step 4
Identify yellow-crowned night-herons by their stocky body and unique head colors. These squat herons have a yellow streak of color that goes from the base of the bill up the head to the crown. They also possess two black stripes on their face, with the upper one encompassing their eyes; there is a white patch between the two stripes.
Step 5
Identify little blue herons by their solid colors. These herons have a blue-gray color pattern with no light colors on their bodies, except for juvenile herons, which are all white before acquiring their adult plumage.

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