12 Types of Herons in Alabama

Types of Herons in Alabama
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten

Have you ever wondered about the types of herons in Alabama? Alabama is home to some amazing wildlife, including many species of birds.

Herons are one type of bird that can be seen throughout the state. They come in various sizes and colors and are all beautiful to observe. 

Herons are a majestic sight and can often be found near ponds, lakes, marshes, and other bodies of water.

Our article will explore Alabama‘s different types of herons and their unique characteristics. 

We will also look at how these types of herons in Alabama hunt for food and form nests.

By the end, you should better understand the types of herons living in Alabama and how to find them in their natural habitats.

1. Great Blue Heron

Great Blue
by ZionNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The great Blue Heron is first on our list of majestic types of herons in Alabama.

Typically seen along wetlands and shallow water, this stately bird can be recognized by its long legs, blue-gray body plumage, and yellowish-orange crown.

Alabama‘s hefty types of herons stand three feet tall and have a wingspan of up to five feet! 

They hunt day and night, preying on fish, frogs, snakes, small mammals, and other birds. In the wild, Great Blue Herons can live up to 25 years.

When it comes to nesting, these gorgeous birds form colonies that can become quite large. The female builds the nest from sticks that she collects from nearby trees.

She then lays two to seven eggs, and the male and female take turns incubating them until hatching usually occurs between 28-32 days later. 

In addition to being beautiful creatures to watch gracefully soaring in the air or frolicking in lakes searching for meals, they are also a great indicator species, illustrating how healthy or polluted an area may be based on their presence or absence.

Due to their important role in Alabama’s environmental protection efforts, all migratory waterfowl, like Great Blue Herons, are protected under Federal regulations.

2. Great Egret

The Great Egret is one of Alabama’s most common types of herons. It stands over 3 feet tall, with a wingspan of up to four and a half feet across!

The long, black legs help it wade in shallow waters, looking for its meals consisting of fish, frogs, and small invertebrates. 

In flight, they have been known to soar over open waters or fields with their long necks tucked into an S-shape, flapping their wings slowly and occasionally gliding on air currents.

During the breeding season in late spring or early summer, adult great egrets perform their elaborate courtship by bowing and “dancing” around each other.

Their white feathers make the adult bird look highly visible compared to other species of herons.

3. Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret - Types of Herons in Wisconsin
by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Snowy Egret is a breed of heron found in the coastal areas of Alabama.

These types of herons in Alabama are known for their white plumage, black legs, and black bill. 

This heron species generally thrives in shallow estuaries and salt marshes due to its affinity for such areas.

Their diet consists mainly of small fish, invertebrates, and amphibians, although they have been known to feed on larger prey depending on availability and seasonality. 

During the breeding season, they will often congregate, partnering with mates and creating large nesting colonies around these habitats, mostly near waterside vegetation.

As with other types of herons, fishermen commonly view them as pests, as they consume live bait for catching fish.

Fish harvesters are encouraged to use protection methods such as egg fortification shrouds to protect their catches from these birds’ prying beaks.

Additionally, it is important to note that this species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 due to its vulnerability to hunting and habitat destruction from human activities in some of its range.

4. Green Heron

Green Heron
by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Green Heron is a species of heron native to Alabama. It belongs to the family Ardeidae and is one of the types of herons in Alabama state.

Found primarily around coastal areas, the Green Heron feeds on fish and insects it catches with its long bill. 

The Green Heron is well adapted to survive in a variety of habitats found in Alabama, including saltwater marshes, rivers, streams, bayous, ponds, lakes, and even roadside ditches.

This versatility allows them to locate and feed on different food sources throughout the year, depending on which food item is available most abundantly during any given season.

They are agile hunters capable of catching small prey while wading or swimming shallow waters using their long bills. 

Green Herons have also been observed using “baiting” techniques unique among both herons and shorebirds alike: deliberately dropping bits of vegetation into the water to attract unsuspecting fish close enough for them to catch!

This hunting method has proven extremely beneficial for Green Herons in Alabama as fisheries near the coast become increasingly challenging due to overfishing and human habitat destruction. 

In addition to being excellent hunters and adaptable survivors, Green Herons are also extremely important contributors to the food chain within local ecosystems.

Providing crucial nutrients for larger wildlife, such as birds of prey who hunt these small predators, as well as some plant species that may feed off of organic matter derived from their waste product(s). 

These noble types of herons in Alabama should remind us all why conservation efforts are so important today.

Not only do they provide invaluable services to maintain environmental balance, but observing such smart behavior first-hand can foster a greater appreciation (and respect) for our natural surroundings!

5. Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the next on our list of the types of herons in Alabama. The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), also known as the Buff-backed Heron, is a species native to southern Europe, Africa, and southwest Asia.

This iconic large wading bird can be found in Alabama’s wetlands, grasslands, and shallow waters.

It has a distinctive white body with a yellow facial area and legs that are bright orange. 

These types of herons in Alabama hunt mainly daily, preying on small animals such as frogs, insects, and fish which they find while patrolling their habitats.

They also often benefit from mutualistic relationships with mammals like cattle which help them search for food items.

In return, the egrets help the animals by eating bugs off them in the act of “wanting.

The Cattle Egret continues to be enjoyed by many people in Alabama today and provides numerous ecological benefits to its ecosystems.

6. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is a species of heron found throughout the Southeast United States and Central and South America.

This medium-sized heron has a slate blue body with white plumes and black legs, feet, and bill.

It is known to feed in shallow water, where they probe in mudflats with their long bills to catch small fish, shrimp, worms, frogs, and aquatic insects. 

The Little Blue Heron can be found in freshwater wetlands throughout Alabama year-round.

It is more active during the late spring and summer months when it takes advantage of increased habitat availability due to increased precipitation.

During these months, they can often be seen stalking slow-moving streams or creeks, searching for food sources, or roosting high up in tall trees nearby to observe their environment or rest. 

It’s also not uncommon for them to join mixed flocks of other species, such as egrets, ibises, storks, coots, grebes, geese, and ducks.

As one of the most common herons in Alabama, this hardy species will provide great viewing opportunities for birders year-round!

7. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is a beautiful species in the southeastern United States, up north of Virginia.

This bird can typically be seen in the marsh and shallow wetlands but may also venture into wooded areas near streams or ponds. 

The Tricolored Heron is most easily identified by its long neck and greenish-gray to purple body with white stripes on the front.

Their tan legs, black eyes, and yellow feet stand out from other herons.

During their breeding season, they feature an elaborate, colorful plume that stands upright from their heads, making them even more impressive!

In Alabama, these types of herons can be found in coastal regions, deep swamps, rivers, lakes, and ponds throughout the state from March until late fall, when they migrate south for the winter.

8. Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Reddish Egret is a species of heron found in the coastal marshes of Alabama. With its striking plumage, it stands out among other wading birds.

Its wings have black tips, its head is white with reddish streaks and a black crest, and its neck is chestnut with white dots. 

The Reddish Egret feeds on fish, crustaceans, and amphibians by waiting patiently in shallow waters before quickly spearing its prey with powerful jabbing motions of its bill.

It is also the most spectacular performer of all the herons due to its dancing displays which involve leaping into the air, flapping wings, and running across the top of the water to flush out hidden prey.

Because of their beauty and gracefulness, these birds pose readily for photographers in many parts of Alabama’s coast.

They are an important part of our ecosystem that helps maintain balance within coastal wetlands.

9. American Bittern

American Bittern - Types of Herons in Wisconsin
by USFWS Pacific is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

American Bittern is also one of the species of heron found in the state of Alabama.

These types of herons in Alabama are characterized by their mottled plumage, which includes brown and tan stripes with some yellow highlights on the wings.

They have short necks, short tails, and long slender bills. 

American Bitterns inhabit various wetland habitats, including swamps, marshes, shallow ponds, lakeshores, and flooded grasslands.

During the breeding season, they can also be seen in dry grasslands, where they construct nests and lay eggs.

These birds feed mainly on insects and small fish but take rodents when available.

The American Bittern’s characteristic calla a series of low “whooms” or “ooom-looks” can be heard during the day or night so that you can easily recognize them among other types of herons in Alabama in Alabama wetlands.

10. Least Bittern

Least Bittern
by ethan.gosnell2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) is next on our list of types of herons in Alabama.

It is a small heron found in shallow wetlands and marshes throughout the southeastern United States, including Alabama. 

This species is the smallest of all North American herons and typically measures about 12-20 inches long with a slender, long bill that measures about 2.5 inches in length.

Their plumage is mostly grayish-brown above and cream or pale yellow below, separated by an area of dark feathers at the chest–a feature known as a “breast-band.”

They have black crowns and faces, yellow legs, and reddish eyes surrounded by white feathers.

The Least Bittern nests in dense stands of cattails on freshwater marshes in Alabama, often near flowing water bodies such as rivers or streams, preferring wetlands with tall vegetation that provides ample cover from avian predators.

They also feed along waterways such as streams and inland aquatic habitats where they can find an abundance of insects and other invertebrates to eat.

After brightening their winter drab plumage to readies for spring nesting season, these territorial species defend their nesting area from intruders.

11. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is one of the most widespread herons in Alabama.

This small heron, typically around 24 inches long, is usually found near wetlands and other areas with standing water.

They feed primarily on fish, amphibians, and aquatic insects that they capture with powerful bills. 

The night heron can often be seen wading through shallow waters for food. During the nesting season, they build bulky stick nests in trees near water sources.

In recent years, more aggressive management practices have helped increase the population of this species, which has faced a slow decline due to habitat loss.

12. Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron 
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This comes last on our list of the types of herons in Alabama. The Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a species of heron found in Alabama and throughout the United States.

This bird is medium to large and has a wide wing span, reaching 2 feet 5 inches.

It has a brownish body coloration with black crown feathers along its head and yellow legs. 

In addition to its native range, this species is also found in Central and South America.

It usually nests near bodies of water and hunts small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans in shallow waters.

Its diet includes insects, frogs, larvae, mollusks, and other aquatic invertebrates. 

During the breeding season, this species can be seen flying high from one nesting location to another in unison before settling down again for the night.

The Black-crowned Night Heron is a vital part of the wildlife communities that inhabit all parts of Alabama due to its role in limiting predator populations by consuming their prey.


Alabama is home to several heron species, including Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and Tricolored Herons.

These birds visit during the winter season from their northern breeding grounds and use the wetlands in Alabama as a haven to mate, nest, and feed.

With conservation efforts continuing across the state, these heron species are flourishing and an integral part of Alabama’s wetland ecosystems.

These are the list of the types of herons in Alabama.

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