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Tricolored heron

Tricolored heron
Egretta tricolor in Quintana, Texas
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
E. tricolor
Binomial name
Egretta tricolor
(Müller, 1776)
Range of E. tricolor
  Breeding range
  Year-round range
  Wintering range
  • Ardea tricolor Müller, 1776
  • Hydranassa tricolor (Müller, 1776)
  • Hydranassa tricolor subsp. tricolor Stotz et al., 1996

The tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), formerly known as the Louisiana heron,[3] is a small species of heron native to coastal parts of the Americas. The species is more solitary than other species of heron in the Americas and eats a diet consisting mostly of small fish.

Habitat, breeding, and distribution

Tricolored herons breed in swamps and other coastal habitats and nests in colonies, often with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. In each clutch, three to seven eggs are typically laid. The tricolored heron is the second most coastal heron in the United States.[3]

The species' range follows the northeastern United States, south along the coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to northern South America as far south as Brazil. In the Pacific region, it ranges from Peru to California, but it is only a nonbreeding visitor to the far north.

It was likely the most numerous heron in North America until the cattle egret arrived to the continent in the 1950s.[3] While the species' population appears to be on the decline,[3] it remains quite common.[4] The bird is listed as "Threatened" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.[5]


This species measures from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in) long and has a typical wingspan of 96 cm (38 in).[6] The slightly larger male heron weighs 415 g (14.6 oz) on average, while the female averages 334 g (11.8 oz).[7] It 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 dark. The plumage of the triclolored heron changes dramatically from its juvenile form to its adult form.[5]

Adults have a blue-grey head, neck, back, and upper wings, with a white line along the neck. The belly is white. In breeding plumage, they have long, blue, filamentous plumes on their heads and necks, and buff ones on their backs.[4]

Behavior and diet

The tricolored heron is more solitary when foraging than other North American herons. When it forages for its prey, it is typically belly-deep in water, alone or at the edge of a mixed flock.[3][4] Kent (1986) found that the diets of tricolored herons in Florida consisted of 99.7% fish and prawns.[8] While other members of Egretta may also eat crabs and opportunistically forage for terrestrial arthropods, the tricolored heron has been consistently observed to be almost exclusively piscivorous, primarily feeding on members of Poeciliidae.[9]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Egretta tricolor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22696931A93594077. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22696931A93594077.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Egretta tricolor (Statius Muller, 1776)". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e Frederick, Peter C. (2020). Poole, A.F. (ed.). "Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), version 1.0". Birds of the World. Ithaca, New York: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bow.triher.01.
  4. ^ a b c "Tricolored Heron". Audubon. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  5. ^ a b "The Tricolored Heron Has More Than Three Colors". Audubon Florida. 2019-07-15. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  6. ^ "Tricolored Heron". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  7. ^ "Biological and Ecotoxicological Characteristics of Terrestrial Vertebrate Species Residing in Estuaries: Tricolored Heron". USGS.
  8. ^ Kent, Donald M. (1986). "Behavior, Habitat Use, and Food of Three Egrets in a Marine Habitat". Colonial Waterbirds. 9 (1): 25–30.
  9. ^ Miranda, Leopoldo; Collazo, Jaime A (1997). "Food Habits of 4 Species of Wading Birds (Ardeidae) in a Tropical Mangrove Swamp". Colonial Waterbirds. 20 (3): 413–418.

Further reading

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Tricolored heron
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