11 Types of Herons in New Jersey

Types of Herons in New Jersey
Photo by Anish Lakkapragada

New Jersey is home to various wildlife, including types of herons.

These graceful and majestic types of Herons in New Jersey are a beautiful sight and an important part of New Jersey’s ecosystem. 

In our blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the types of herons in New Jersey and explore some of the unique characteristics of each species.

So grab your binoculars and explore the world types of herons in New Jersey!

1. Green Heron

The Green Heron is the first on our list of types of herons in New Jersey. It’s a medium-sized bird with a slaty blue-green back, chestnut neck, wings, and yellow legs. 

These types of Herons in New Jersey have a unique adaptation; they can drop food onto the water surface to attract prey and quickly snatch it up.

They are usually seen as solitary but may form small colonies near water sources in summer.

The Green Heron can be found foraging in freshwater and saltwater marshes and estuaries along banks of streams, ponds, and lakes.

In addition to its typical diet of small fish and aquatic insects, the Green Heron has also been known to feed on frogs, crayfish, worms, small snakes, berries, and even garbage.

It is an active hunter, typically perching at the edge of the water, waiting for an opportunity to spot a meal, then plunging its head into the water to capture it.

During courtship, the male will bow and puff out his chest feathers while calling.

The Green Heron is often seen roosting in trees close to water, typically in small groups of four or fewer individuals.

They build nests of sticks near water and lay between three and five eggs each year.

This species is common throughout New Jersey, so you’re likely to encounter them if you’re near any body of water.

2. Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is the most common and easily recognizable type of Heron in New Jersey.

It has a long neck, gray body, and white head with black stripes running from the crown to the back of its head. The bill is yellow, and the legs are slate-colored. 

These types of Herons in New Jersey can reach up to 4 feet tall and have a wingspan of 6 feet!

The Great Blue Heron is a solitary hunter and prefers shallow waters, wetlands, and marshlands. They feed on various prey, including fish, frogs, crayfish, snakes, small mammals, and aquatic insects. 

They also feed on carrion. In New Jersey, they can be spotted wading along the edges of freshwater ponds and rivers.

These types of Herons in New Jersey are relatively quiet but may make loud croaking calls during the breeding season. Breeding takes place from late April through mid-June.

The nest is usually built in trees near the water, and the female lays 3-5 blue-green eggs. The young hatch after 23-25 days of incubation and are ready to fly after another month.

3. American Bittern

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is a heron found throughout the United States, including New Jersey.

This bird prefers wetland habitats, particularly shallow marshes with tall grass and rushes. It is easily identified by its stocky body and distinctive brown and black streaked feathers. 

The American Bittern has a long neck and pointed bill, and white spots encircle its large yellow eyes. Its call is a loud, booming “unk-a-lunk” sound.

This species usually stands still while hunting for food in the shallows, and its diet consists of small fish, frogs, and insects.

American Bitterns will form large nesting colonies during the breeding season, often near cattail beds.

The female types of Herons in New Jersey lay between two and five blue-green eggs in a shallow depression lined with grasses and other vegetation. 

Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs until they hatch after about 24 days.

The chicks will fumble after two to three weeks, but the parents will continue caring for them until they leave the nest.

American Bitterns are an important species for wetland conservation, and their presence indicates a healthy habitat.

Unfortunately, their population has declined due to habitat destruction and degradation, as well as the impacts of human activities such as pollution and hunting.

Efforts to protect these types of Herons in New Jersey should be continued to help ensure their future in New Jersey and across the United States.

4. Black-crowned Night-Heron

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most common heron species found in New Jersey. It is a fairly small bird, growing to only about 24 inches long and weighing just under two pounds.

This species is nocturnal, feeding mainly at night on insects, fish, frogs, small mammals, and even other birds. 

These b types of Herons in New Jersey can be found along rivers, ponds, estuaries, lakes, marshes, and woodlands across the state.

The Black-crowned Night Heron can be recognized by its grayish plumage, yellow eyes, and distinctive black cap.

The American Bittern is the second most common heron species found in New Jersey. This species is slightly larger than the Black-crowned Night-Heron, reaching lengths up to 34 inches. 

It is also a mostly nocturnal bird, preferring to hunt for food in the cover of darkness. Its diet consists of amphibians, fish, and small mammals.

This species can be found in wetlands and marshes across the state and is recognizable by its buffy-brown coloration and distinctive loud “booming” call.

5. Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the Herons in New Jersey. It can grow up to 54 inches and weigh as much as 6 pounds.

This species is active day and night and feeds on various prey such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and insects. 

Great Blue Herons can be found in wetlands and shorelines across the state.

They are distinguished by their long legs and long neck, as well as their slate-blue coloration and white crown.

6. Great Egret

The Great Egret (Ardea alba) is a large wading bird found in wetlands and marshlands in New Jersey.

Its striking white plumage makes it one of the most recognizable herons in North America.

The average Great Egret stands about three feet tall and has a wingspan of around five feet. 

In addition to its white feathers, the Great Egret has a long, curved bill, yellow eyes, and black legs and feet.

These types of Herons in New Jersey primarily feed on small fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects.

Great Egrets often build their nests in colonies near wetlands or marshlands when breeding. Their nests are made of sticks and are usually placed in trees or shrubs close to the water.

Great Egrets lay two to six eggs per clutch and can produce multiple broods yearly. 

These types of Herons in New Jersey are considered a species of “Least Concern” by the IUCN.

Though they are not as common as some other heron species in New Jersey, Great Egrets are still relatively easy to spot in wetland areas during summer. 

They can often be seen standing motionless in shallow water, waiting for prey to come within reach of their sharp bills.

If you are lucky enough to see one of these elegant types of Herons in New Jersey in the wild, take some time to appreciate its beauty!

7. Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret is an elegant white heron found in New Jersey. Its bright yellow feet, legs, and long, slender black bill characterize it. It has a white body with black spots on its wings and tail. 

The Snowy Egret is the most widely distributed heron species in the United States and the most common heron species found in New Jersey.

They are often seen wading in shallow waters or hunting for small fish in large bodies of water.

The Snowy Egret feeds on small aquatic animals such as small fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and aquatic insects.

They hunt by standing still in shallow water or stalking prey from a hidden location. It is also known to hunt cooperatively with other species of birds.

These types of Herons in New Jersey breed from March through June in colonies usually located near coastal wetlands or marshes.

The male will build the nest out of sticks and line it with mud, feathers, and grass.

The female will then lay 3-4 blue-green eggs which both parents take turns incubating for about 24 days. After hatching, the chicks stay in the nest for about 4-5 weeks before they fledge.

8. Least Bittern

The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus ) is one of the smallest herons in North America and can be found in New Jersey during the warmer months.

It has a slim body and neck with a small head, which it uses to peer into vegetation and locate prey.

Its upper parts are brown with black stripes, while its underparts are streaked white and yellowish-brown. 

During mating season, male types of Herons in New Jersey have an orange neck and chest.

This heron is typically found in freshwater marshes, swamps, wet meadows, lagoons, lake edges, and muddy pools.

The Least Bittern is a solitary bird that feeds mainly on small aquatic prey such as amphibians, fish, insects, and crustaceans. It uses its slender bill to capture prey and eats carrion or scavenges. 

During the day, this heron can be seen standing motionless in shallow water or along the edges of wetlands with its neck extended, waiting for prey.

This species is declining in some areas due to habitat loss and degradation. 

Despite this, it remains relatively widespread throughout its range and is currently listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Least Bittern can continue to thrive in New Jersey with proper conservation efforts.

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

The yellow-crowned night heron is the most common of all Herons in New Jersey.

It is a medium-sized bird with a wingspan of around three feet and has a mostly gray-brown back, head, and neck with yellow legs and a white belly. 

Its crown, lores, and face are also yellow. It can be found in both fresh and saltwater wetlands, as well as in fields, woodlands, and grasslands.

This bird hunts mainly at night and eats fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects. It nests in colonies, usually on flat islands in wetlands or near shorelines. 

The least bittern is the smallest heron species in New Jersey and can reach only about twelve inches in length.

This species is brownish-gray and has a black cap, white throat, and yellow breasts. 

It is an elusive bird that lives in freshwater marshes, swamps, and wet meadows. It feeds mainly on small fish, frogs, and insects.

This heron is often perched on reeds or branches overhanging the water. The least bittern is usually seen singly or in pairs and can be identified by its soft “grunting” call. 

The snowy egret is a small white heron with a black bill, black legs, and bright yellow feet.

This species is commonly found in shallow wetlands such as estuaries, salt marshes, mudflats, and lagoons. It feeds primarily on fish, crustaceans, and insects. 

The snowy egret usually stands motionless while waiting for its prey to swim by before rapidly jabbing its bill into the water to capture it.

This bird develops long plumes on its head, neck, and back during the breeding season.

10. Little Blue Heron

The Little Blue Heron is one of the more commonly seen types of Herons in New Jersey. They are small, stocky birds with blue-gray bodies and white heads, necks,s, and chests. 

The adult Little Blue Heron has a reddish-purple bill and a black-and-white striped face. They can usually be found in shallow wetlands, marshes, and along the coast.

They mainly feed on fish, crustaceans, and insects but also take other small animals, such as frogs, lizards, and mice.

These types of Herons in New Jersey are solitary birds that breed from late spring through summer.

The males will display to attract females by making a rasping call and performing a series of dipping movements with their wings.

During the breeding season, pairs of Little Blue Herons will build nests high in trees near water sources. They lay one to three eggs, and both parents share in incubation.

The Little Blue Heron is an adaptable species and can be found in various habitats throughout its range.

It is a relatively common bird in New Jersey and can be seen year-round in many parts of the state.

In addition to being found in wetlands and marshes, they are sometimes seen flying over fields and meadows during migration. They also feed along roadsides, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

11. Tricolored Heron

Lastly, The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is one of the most widely distributed types of Herons in New Jersey.

It is commonly found in New Jersey coastal regions, marshes, and estuaries. 

The Tricolored Heron is medium-sized with a long, slender neck and a pointed bill.

It has white feathers on its neck and upper parts, grayish-blue feathers on its wings and tail, and reddish-brown feathers on its lower back. Its legs are usually yellowish-green.

Regarding behavior, the Tricolored Heron is a solitary bird that is more active during the day.

It is an opportunistic feeder that eats small fish, crustaceans, frogs, insects, and other aquatic creatures. This heron will often stand motionless in shallow water, waiting to ambush its prey.

The Tricolored Heron breeds in colonies in saltwater or freshwater wetlands, sometimes even nesting in trees.

The female lays 2-4 pale blue eggs in a shallow cup nest of twigs and vegetation. Both parents share responsibility for incubating the eggs and caring for the young.

The Tricolored Heron is one of the few herons that will return to its natal colony to breed.

Conclusion

New Jersey is home to a diverse selection of heron species. From the Great Blue Heron to the Tricolored Heron, there are many types of Herons in New Jersey state.

Whether you’re visiting the beaches of New Jersey or taking a hike through its forests, keep your eyes peeled for these majestic types of Herons in New Jersey! 

Herons can often be spotted standing in shallow water, waiting to strike at unsuspecting prey.

They are also known to soar gracefully through the air, their large wings making them a beautiful sight. 

If you want to learn more about the types of Herons in New Jersey, visit your local library or research online.

There’s much to discover about these majestic creatures and the habitats they call home.

As you explore New Jersey’s wildlife, watch for any of these incredible types of Herons in New Jersey.

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