• Jeff

Tricolored Heron

The oldest recorded Tricolored Heron was at least 17 years, 8 months old when it was shot in the Bahamas in 1976. It had been banded in Virginia in 1958.

The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet. It builds stick nests in trees and shrubs, often in colonies with other wading birds. It’s common in southern saltmarshes and was once known as the Louisiana Heron.

Coastal estuaries are a great place to look for Tricolored Herons year-round. They tend to feed alone or at the edge of groups of other waders, so be sure to look at the lone dark bird in the corner. They also forage more commonly in open water and pools than Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons. Their white belly readily separates them from Little Blue Herons and Reddish Egrets, and their active foraging style separates them from the slow and methodical Great Blue Heron.

Tricolored Herons sometimes follow behind Double-crested Cormorants or Pied-billed Grebes snapping up fish that they stir up.

Angsty teenagers aren't just a human phenomenon. As Tricolored Herons get older they often lunge and snap at their parents when they arrive at the nest with food. To appease the youngsters, parents greet them with bows.


Tricolored Herons forage for small fish such as topminnows and killifishes in open or semi open brackish wetlands. They are skilled at stalking, chasing, and standing-and-waiting to capture small fish. Before striking, they draw in their neck and crouch down so low that their belly often touches the water. Their foraging style is generally more jittery and active than some other herons, chasing after fish with wings flapping or pirouetting with sharps stops and turns. Similar to Reddish Egrets, they also bend forward and push their wings over their head to entice fish to enter the shade provided by their wings.

Tricolored Herons are colonial nesters, often nesting with other herons and egrets. They typically breed on islands or higher ground with dense vegetation. Males tend to pick a spot in a shady and dense tree or shrub up to 13 feet above the ground or water.

The male collects large twigs and builds a loose platform before pairing. After pairing the male brings more twigs to the female, who rearranges them into a bulky platform. Some females line the nest with finer twigs and cordgrass.


Pictures by Jeff, from my backyard and surrounding area with my Canon SX70HS

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