Tricolored Heron – Profile | Traits | Facts | Call | Diet | Breeding

Tricolored heron

On the southeastern coastal plain, the Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor is a characteristic bird of quiet shallow waters.


The tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), previously often known as the Louisiana Heron, is a small species of heron native to coastal components of the Americas; within the Atlantic area, it ranges from the northeastern United States, south alongside the coast, by way of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to northern South America as far south as Brazil. In the Pacific area, it ranges from Peru to California, however it’s only a nonbreeding customer to the far north.

The Tricolored Heron is recognized by its white stomach and slaty darkish head, neck, and back. In profile, its long bill, head, and neck, and slender body are readily recognized. It flies with regular wing strokes with head and neck drew back.

Strikingly slender, with long bill, neck, and legs, it’s typically seen wading belly-deep in coastal lagoons. Although it’s solitary in its feeding, it’s sociable in nesting, typically in very massive colonies with varied different herons and egrets. Formerly often known as Louisiana Heron.

This species measures from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in) long and has a typical wingspan of 96 cm (38 in). The barely bigger male heron weighs 415 g (14.6 oz) on average, whereas the feminine average 334 g (11.8 oz).

Tricolored Heron is a medium-large, long-legged, long-necked heron with a long, pointed, yellowish or greyish bill with a black tip. Its legs and feet are darkish.
Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor
Adults have a blue-grey head, neck, back, and higher wings, with a white line alongside the neck. The stomach is white. In breeding plumage, they’ve long, blue, filamentous plumes on their heads and necks, and buff ones on their backs.

The tricolored heron stalks its prey in shallow or deeper water, typically working because it does so. It eats fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and bugs.

Birds from the east and the southeast United States migrate southward following the coast to Florida after which to wintering areas, some by way of Bahamas, to the West Indies and likewise to Central America and northern South America to Colombia and Ecuador.

Birds from Texas migrate south to Mexico and Central America. Return is in February and March. Some birds make a cross-gulf migration. South American birds are sedentary.

Wintering and resident birds overlap in unclear methods from the southern United States by way of northern South America.

Post-breeding dispersal is characteristic of this species. As the population has expanded, vagrants are sometimes seen all through a lot of the continental North America from New Brunswick, Ontario, Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, inland Texas, and Arizona and in South America to Chile. Vagrants happen within the Lesser Antilles, Fernando de Noronha, and the Azores.

The Tricolored Heron is a coastal heron. It is a bird of shallow marshes, shorelines, and coastal lagoons. Among its particular habitats are mudflats, salt marshes, tidal creeks, mangrove swamps, open shallow bays, contemporary water marshes, swamps, and crayfish aquacultural ponds.

Although present in salt to contemporary water, it nests more often in salt or brackish water areas.

It has been seen as high as 600 m in Honduras. In Brazil, it has been present in dry Ceara habitats. It favors natural habitats, in contrast to different species, and flies long distances to feed there.
Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor
The Tricolored Heron is a medium egret that feeds in open shallow coastal waters for small fish. Its long bill and neck are a characteristic of fish-eating herons.

Its large repertoire of passive and lively feeding behaviors permits it to search out, run down if necessary, and seize these fish. Mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, and different open shorelines present feeding habitats. It is a surprisingly solitary bird, gathering in small teams when meals could be very ample.

Tricolored Heron defends its feeding territory in an effort to monopolize the scarce fish’s useful resource. Food availability depends upon hydrology and tidal circumstances.

This is an instance of a heron that could be a colonial nester however preferentially a solitary forager. Its distinctive color pattern appears to help the idea of a solitary (darkish back) lively (light undersides) feeder.

Tricolored Heron is probably going that the intricate biology of this coastal, small-fish consuming, long-billed heron stays to be totally understood and appreciated.


Found in coastal estuaries, saltmarshes, mangroves, and lagoons in the course of the breeding season. Outside of the breeding season, they use coastal areas in addition to freshwater marshes, lake edges, canals, and ditches.

Marshes, swamps, streams, shores. Mainly in waters of coastal lowlands. In breeding season normally close to saltwater, on shallow, sheltered estuaries and bays, tidal marshes, mangrove swamps. Also regionally inland around freshwater marshes, lakes, rivers. Nests in colonies in bushes, mangroves, or scrub close to water.

Tricolored Heron Range

Breeding range: Its North American nesting range is alongside the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coast from south Maine by way of Texas.

Inland nesting happens not often and with various success in such inland sites as South Carolina (Belser and Post 1987), west Texas, Kansas, South Dakota (Frederick 1997).

Tricolored Heron nests alongside each coast of Mexico, Central America, the Greater Antilles and the Virgin Islands, and coastal South America to the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil on the Atlantic coast and to central Peru (Lima) on the Pacific coast.
Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor
The race tricolor happens in northeast Brazil, to eastern Venezuela, and Trinidad (if solely two subspecies are acknowledged). Ruficollis happens from North America south by way of Central America, West Indies, northwest Venezuela, Colombia, to southern Peru.

Nonbreeding range: Birds winter by way of many of the breeding ranges, together with regionally in delicate winters as far north as New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. Its more common winter range is from South Carolina southward. Birds additionally winter in southern California. The core wintering range might be south of the United States.

Tricolored Heron Description

The Tricolored Heron is a smooth and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the center of its sinuous neck and its white stomach set it aside from different darkish herons.

This pretty small heron wades by way of coastal waters in the hunt for small fish, typically working and stopping with fast turns and begins, as if dancing in a ballet.

Tricolored Heron builds stick nests in bushes and shrubs, typically in colonies with different wading birds. It’s common in southern saltmarshes and was as soon as often known as the Louisiana Heron.

Tricolored Heron Description

The Tricolored Heron is a medium, skinny heron, distinguished by its white underside and darkish head, neck, and back, discovered alongside the coast in tropical and subtropical Americas.

Its head and neck are slate gray to black-gray. The comparatively long and skinny bill is brown-yellow to orange. The iris is brown. The lores are yellow.

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

The head, bill, and neck are all very long and skinny, and on occasions snake-like. The back and higher wings are blue-gray to black-gray. Lanceolate plumes on the back are purple maroon.

The chin and down the front of the throat is white or with a skinny red-brown stripe persevering with onto the chest. The belly and underwing are white. Legs are gray yellow.

During the breeding season, the bill is a vibrant blue with a black tip. The lores are cobalt blue. The iris is scarlet red. Head plumes are white.

Long feathers on the neck and mantle are violet mauve. Filamentous mantle plumes are buff; there’s a rufous tinge to higher scapulars and the back of the neck. The legs are deep pink maroon.

Males are bigger than females (average 415 vs. 324 g). The sexes are alike in plumage however in breeding, feminine plumage color is much less intense. Geographic variation happens.

The race ruficollis is bigger, with slaty higher components, a white chin, and the front of the neck. Tricolor is smaller, with a lighter back and back of the neck, red to the chestnut line on the foredeck.

Baja California birds are bigger than those from eastern North America. Trinidad birds have chin and center of throat chestnut and front of neck more rufous. Additional research of geographic variation is required.

Juvenile birds have an olive-brown back and wings and a brown neck. The chin, foredeck, and stomach are white. The breast is streaked chestnut gray. The bill is yellow with an uninteresting black tip. Legs are green-yellow.

The chicks have darkish gray down overlaying backs and wings and a white stomach. It has a crest of long brown hair like down. Bill is light green. Iris is yellow-white.

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

Size and Shape

A medium-sized, delicate, and slim heron with a long, daggerlike bill. Its long skinny neck curves as much as its small head.


A colorful heron with a mixture of blue-gray, lavender, and white. Unlike different darkish herons, they have a white stomach.

Breeding birds have small white plumes extending from the back of the head, a vibrant blue patch of skin around the bill, and pink legs. Nonbreeding birds lack the prospers of breeding birds and have yellowish legs. Juveniles have a rusty neck and rusty-edged feathers.


Forages alone or on the fringe of teams of blended wading birds. Slowly stalks fish or pirouettes with sharp stops and turns with wings flapping. Flies with head drawn in and feet trailing behind.

Feeding Behavior

Forages in shallow water by standing nonetheless and ready for prey to the method, or by strolling very slowly; generally more lively, stirring backside sediments with one foot or dashing in pursuit of colleges of fish. Solitary in foraging, driving away others from small “feeding territory.”

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

Tricolored Heron Foraging

The feeding behavior and ecology of the Tricolored Heron are pretty properly understood by way of research over a lot of its range.

The Tricolored Heron feeds in the course of the day in shallow to comparatively deep water, maybe deeper than most medium herons.

It tends to feed solitarily, scattered over the marsh or alongside streams, and defends its feeding sites with Alert Posture, Upright, Forward, and Aerial Fighting.

Tricolored Heron does affiliate with feeding aggregations nevertheless when prey is ample, assuming feeding positions more to the sting of the group.

Tricolored Heron Stabs prey, typically making a virtually horizontal slightly than vertical stroke. It will Hop or take a short flight, Lunging at prey on alighting.

Tricolored Heron feeds by Walking Slowly and Walking Quickly. It additionally feeds by Standing and by Running after prey it sees. It has a characteristic low Crouch by which the bird squats very deeply, with its neck and stomach almost touching the water.

Tricolored Heron makes use of Hopping, Wing Flicking, Open Wing Feeding, and Underwing Feeding. In lively pursuit of prey, it could Hop, with flapping wings and lunging strikes or it could spin its body within the route of its open wing.

It additionally makes use of different lively behaviors once in a while, together with Foot Stirring, Foot Raking, Hovering, Hovering Stirring, Dipping, and Foot Dragging.

Tricolored Heron mixes up its repertoire of behaviors. It might Walk with gradual steps stalking prey then run with wings flapping, turning before stopping to attend recognizing one other fish. This tactical sequence is named “Walk Quickly-Run-Open Wing”.

Small fish are the first meals of the Tricolored Heron, making up 90% of the diet. They notably eat varied species of killifish (Fundulus), the common small tidal marsh, and tidal swamps fish within the area. They additionally eat frogs, prawns (Palaemonetes), snails, and bugs when out there.

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

Tricolored Heron Call

The “Aah” call is the aggression call, used additionally in Upright and Forward shows. The short guttural “Aahrr” call is the alarm call.

A “Uunh” call is given as a part of the Snap display. “’Culh”, call, rendered “culh, cuhl” or “houn, houn”, is flight call and used mutually in Greeting Ceremony. The “Scaah” call is used to method nest. Bill Snap is utilized in Stretch. Wings make “Whomp” sound in Circle Flight.


3-4, generally 2-7. Pale blue-green. Incubation is by each sex, 21-25 days. Young: Both parents feed younger. Young might start climbing about close to nest at age of three weeks, capable of fly at about 5 weeks.


Both parents feed younger. Young might start climbing about close to nest at age of three weeks, capable of fly at about 5 weeks.


Mostly fish. Eats primarily small fish of no economic worth, additionally crustaceans (crayfish, prawns), bugs (aquatic bugs and grasshoppers), tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, lizards, spiders.


Breeds in colonies, typically with different species of wading birds. Male selects site inside the colony and shows there to draw mate.

Displays embrace neck stretching, deep bowing, round display flights. Nest: Site depends upon colony location, which can be in bushes, mangroves, willows, thickets of dry scrub, generally on the ground; nest normally 2-10′ above ground, generally as much as 30′.

Nest (constructed principally by the feminine, with supplies gathered by a male) is a platform of sticks, with a shallow melancholy at the center, lined with finer twigs and grasses.

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

Tricolored Heron Ecology

The nesting biology of the Tricolored Heron is pretty properly understood owing to research in a number of components of its range.

The nesting season is within the spring and summer season (March–June) in eastern North America, though as early as February in Florida. Further south, nesting relies more on the wet season and is variable from February to August within the Guyanas and Trinidad.

It nests on islands and vegetation islands inside coastal marshes, swamps, lagoons, rivers, and inland in swamps and marshes. Very often they’re recorded on dry ground or different odd locations.

The nest is often in bushes, bushes, or herbaceous vegetation normally in thick vegetation and low, lower than 3 m above ground in mangroves or willows, and even lower when lodged in low reeds, corresponding to Phragmites.

Tricolored Herons are colonial, in small single-species colonies or in massive blended species colonies, however typically towards the periphery slightly than within the center of the colony, reflecting they’re being much less social than among the different herons.

The nest is a flat platform of sticks, 25-30 cm large. It is made from twigs with leaves for lining, gathered close by.

The male stakes out its nesting territory by Alert Posture, Twig Shaking, Preening, Fluffed Neck, and Crest Raising show and begins building a nest platform.

Tricolored Heron performs its courtship shows from the platform or close by, particularly utilizing the Stretch display with all plumes erect, wings out and down, with and snap or twig grasp on the down half, and the “Unh” call on the peak.

The Tricolored Heron display combines options of traditional Snap and Stretch shows right into a single sequence. This behavior shows the colored iris, lores, bill, and bill tip.

Other behaviors are Twig Shaking, Circle Flight that includes exaggerated wing beats and prolonged neck, Preening with very fast strokes, Bill Clappering close to head and body making a rattling sound.

Tricolored Heron defends the nest with Upright and Forward shows, the Forward involving excessive erection of the neck feathers, back plumes, and Crest Raising.

Once the pair is established, the Greeting Ceremony contains Crest Raising, the “Culh” call, and Bill Clappering. After pairing, the male gathers sticks and the feminine continues to make the nest.

The eggs are pale green-blue. They measure 44 x 32 mm in North America, and could also be smaller in South America, 40 x 30 mm.

The clutch is normally 3-4 eggs (2-7), may be smaller, 2-3, in South America. The incubation interval is about 21-24 days. Both members of the pair incubate.

Chicks hatch asynchronously. They are brooded for 12 days and fed by regurgitation, greedy the parental bill crossways. They are brooded to day 12. After 2 weeks adults go to chicks solely to feed them and by 4 weeks the chicks hunt down adults for meals.

Young are altricial, rising shortly, particularly feet and legs. They can move around the nest in 5 days and may climb from the nest in 11 days. By 17 days, they’re perching above the nest.

They can fly away from the nest places by 24 days and by 30 days type teams of younger within the branches. They moult into juvenal plumage by 30 days.

Windstorms heavy rains, predation, and meal limitation trigger nestling mortality. Storms can disrupt nesting (Dindo and Marion 1992). Crows (Corvis), grackles (Quiscalus), and gallinules (Porphyrula) take eggs.

Hawks (Buteogallus), mongoose (Herpestes), and Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) take nestlings. Most mortality is because of failure of the meal supply. Brood discount to 1 to 2 chicks is common.

Tricolored Heron Facts

Tricolored Herons generally comply with behind Double-crested Cormorants or Pied-billed Grebes snapping up fish that they fire up.
Angsty youngsters aren’t only a human phenomenon.

As Tricolored Herons grow old they typically lunge and snap at their parents once they arrive on the nest with meals. To appease the kids, parents greet them with bows.

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

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

How to search out ‍ৃ Tricolored Heron

Coastal estuaries are a great place to search for Tricolored Herons year-round. They are inclined to feed alone or on the fringe of teams of different waders, so be sure to have a look at the lone darkish bird within the nook.

They additionally forage more generally in open water and pools than Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons. Their white stomach readily separates them from Little Blue Herons and Reddish Egrets, and their lively foraging model separates them from the gradual and methodical Great Blue Heron.

Tricolored Heron Migration

Northward wandering after breeding not as pronounced as in some southern herons, however has strayed far to the north once in a while.

Withdraws in winter from northernmost breeding areas, with some migrating far south; birds banded in South Carolina recovered in Cuba and Panama. Common all winter in south Florida and components of Gulf Coast, the place some are in all probability everlasting residents.


The Tricolored Heron is common alongside its coastal range and uncommon inland. Overall it traditionally is among the amplest herons in North America.

Having not been the target of the plume commerce, its numbers weren’t decreased within the early 1900s to the extent of different species.

After the 1940s populations elevated range large, and it considerably expanded its breeding range east North America, Virginia by way of Massachusetts. It additionally expanded its winter range in eastern North America and winter populations elevated markedly in Louisiana.


Despite some reported native declines, nonetheless very common in components of the southeast, and has expanded range northward in the course of the twentieth century. In the latest, a long time has nested at many new localities farther north and inland.

Tricolored Heron, scientific name Egretta tricolor

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