12 Types of Herons in Texas

Types of Herons in Texas
Photo by shamprakash on Pixabay

Texas has a diverse community of herons and other water bird species.

These types of herons in Texas include the Great Blue Heron, commonly seen in freshwater marsh habitats throughout the state.

There’s also the Roseate Spoonbill, a uniquely colored wading bird that lives primarily on the coast near bays and mudflats. 

In addition, several varieties of egrets, including Snowy Egrets, live throughout Texas.

Reddish Egrets are only found along coastal waters, while Cattle Egrets can be seen in farmlands, meadows, and wetlands areas.

All these types of herons in Texas have adapted to their surroundings over time, making Texas a paradise for Avian enthusiasts.

1. Tricolored Heron

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

The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is starting our list of types of herons in Texas.

It is most active during the breeding season and can be seen along the upper reaches of many Texas rivers and lakes.

As with other herons, it has a long graceful neck that it uses to strike at unsuspecting prey. 

The body of this species is blue-gray, and its wings are black-tipped, giving it an unmistakable pattern in flight.

The legs are black, as are their eyes and bill. Adult birds will also show off their pale gray-spotted chest plumage during courtship displays with contrasting dark spots on their face and throat. 

A fish eater by nature, the Tricolored Herons diet consists mainly of small fishes like bream, perch and even larger game fish such as bass and gar.

This elegant species is a favorite among birders looking for unique birds in this part of the country.

It can often be found perching atop cattails or other tall vegetation along the shorelines of coastal wetlands throughout Texas.

2. Texas Cattle Egret

Texas Cattle Egret
by VSmithUK is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Texas Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis) is one of Texas’s many types of herons. This heron species is often seen near farmlands, hunting insects, small fish, and frogs.

Their adaptive nature has allowed them to thrive in a wide variety of habitats all over the world, including Texas. 

The Cattle Egrets’ buff-colored bodies, white head, and necks make them easy to identify amongst other types of herons in Texas.

This bird species also has a black bill, yellow lores (the area between the upper bill base and eyes), and bright yellow legs during the breeding season.

It is important for us to protect their habitats to ensure that these distinct types of herons in Texas continue to remain part of our ecosystem.

3. Great Egret

The great egret (Ardea alba) is a species of herons found across Texas.

It is an elegant bird with a long neck and white feathers, making it easily recognizable even to the casual observer.

The legs are yellowish-green and usually partially hidden beneath its long plumage.

Their main habitat is marshy wetlands, but they can also be found near ponds or in forested areas containing shallow water pools.

Great egrets often hunt alone in shallow water and feed on fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and occasionally small mammals. 

They have a wide diet, from lizards to large frogs, but they select lancelets as their preferred prey.

The great egret can reach up to three feet in height, making them one of Texas’s largest types of herons.

As such, they have become quite popular amongst Texan birdwatchers!

4. 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 (a.k.a Nyctanassa violacea) is one of Texas’s most visible types of herons in Texas.

Of all the heron species in the state, this species stands out due to its distinctive coloration and behavior, as it is seen both during the day and at night.

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron breeds in ponds and wetlands throughout central and eastern Texas.

These types of herons in Texas live in colonies and can also be found foraging near rivers or creeks. 

During spring, summer, and fall, these herons migrate from their breeding sites to coastal regions to find more food sources such as fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects like dragonflies or grasshoppers.

They have a grayish back with a black crown, yellow legs, and bill; an adult has gray plumage on its peaked head with a white line running down their neck towards their back feathers. 

During the breeding season, Yellow-crowned Night, Highlights turn even brighter when they display orangey feathers on their cheeks or chin and red eyes consisting of a black band that cuts through them.

These medium-sized types of herons in Texas reach approximately 18 inches in height with a wingspan ranging from 20 to 24 inches.

In-flight, they have black wings with bright white spots marking them from any other species resulting from adaptations that help them blend into their environment both during the day and at night against dark backgrounds providing camouflage for themselves against predators. 

Overall these types of herons in Texas play an important role in Texas ecosystems feeding mainly on small invertebrates, and helping keep populations of them under control.

While providing food for other animals like raccoons, egrets among others too, if there are food leftovers or after they ingest one whole expecting nothing else to find it later on until they move away afterward, giving room space to other species then going elsewhere with more offerings

5. Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron
by diana_robinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is next on our list of types of herons in Texas.

It is a large, stately heron with unique yellow eyes and a black head and neck.

It can be found throughout most of Texas in fresh and saltwater environments, from coastal lagoons to municipal storm runoff channels at the edge of cities. 

These types of herons in Texas have reddish legs that allow them to run quickly across the land when hunting for their prey.

The Black-crowned night heron is an expert predator, able to blend into its surroundings and use surprise attacks to catch fish and small crustaceans. 

During migration, it joins other herons with similar coloring in flocks where they migrate together along route corridors predetermined by generations past.

It returns to Texas when temperatures warm in late February or early March.

While they are not plentiful summer residents, they still call portions of central and eastern Texas their home during those warmer months.

6. Green Heron

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

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a species of heron commonly found in Texas and other parts of North America.

This heron is somewhat smaller than the Great Blue Heron and usually found near bodies of water, such as ponds and streams. 

The Green Heron has a distinctive greenback, lighter chestnut-brown neck, and breasts.

It can be seen wading in shallow water, probing for insects, fish, frogs, and small reptiles with their long bills. 

These types of herons in Texas typically hunt at dusk or dawn when most creatures are inactive or asleep.

They remain still for long periods, so unsuspecting prey may come into range.

Green Herons often stand motionless on one leg, looking like statuesque sentinels!

7. 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 graceful and beautiful waterbird found throughout Texas.

It has an incredibly long and slender neck, with a sharp black bill, yellow legs and toes, white feathers, dark eyes, and long wings that make it easily distinguishable from other herons in the area. 

Although fairly rare in some areas of Texas, the Snowy Egret can often be spotted near freshwater ponds, marshes, and riverbanks, feasting on small fishes, crustaceans, and insects.

The snowy egrets also have a glossy black head with tufts of long feather plumes atop their crown during the breeding season. 

During this time, they are known for fascinating courtship dances, which involve twigs, shells, and aquatic vegetation use routines displayed around potential mates during which their bright eyes and feet play out performances arguably better than any Broadway show.

Aside from their astonishing beauty, the Snowy Egret is an important part of local ecosystems as they help to keep food chain populations in check while providing an excellent source of prey for anglers and hunters alike.

8. Reddish Egret

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

The Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) is a large wading bird seen in Texas along the Gulf Coast.

This species prefers coastal wetlands, lagoons, bays, and marshes, where it can hunt for its fish prey. 

The Reddish Egret has specialized feeding behavior, famously called “feeding frenzy.”

It is an impatient and dramatic hunter with actions that include running over shallow water, spinning around rapidly, standing still, and buying elements with four feet together to startle its prey before catching them. 

The adult has a gray-brown body with white cheeks and neck feathers streaked with drop-shaped reddish spots, while the juvenile has a gray and off-white feather pattern without any streaks or spots.

Both male and female birds have long pink legs and yellow eyes on their black bills.

The Reddish Egret is the only one of the types of herons in Texas, so it stands out in comparison to other similar birds that can be seen here.

9. Least Bittern

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

The Least Bittern, also known as the “Ixobrychus exilis” is an endangered bird species found throughout Texas.

The species is small; its long neck, broad wings, and bill are all thin and black.

This type of heron prefers wetlands that are surrounded by trees or shrubs, such as marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, rivers, and even flooded agricultural areas. 

In Texas, their most common habitat is the riparian woodlands near creeks and streams.

They feed primarily on small aquatic organisms like insects, crustaceans, and mollusks.

The breeding season normally starts from May through August each year with clutches of three to five eggs.

Being laid in a constructed tiny cup-like structure made from dead grasses or leaves on the understory of cattails, reeds, or bulrushes.

If you are lucky enough to encounter one of these types of herons in Texas in their natural environment, be sure to take extra precautions not to disturb it.

They can become easily startled and fly away quickly should they feel frightened or threatened.

10. American Bittern

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

American Bitterns are among the most remarkable types of herons in Texas and other North America.

They are large wading birds typically called “thunder-pumpers” due to their loud and distinctive sound.

These magnificent types of herons in Texas have a brown upper body and a pale yellow underside, with black barring along their backs, legs, and wings.

They can grow up to 45 cm in length, have an impressive wingspan of up to 91 cm, and weigh approximately 500 grams each.

Despite their big sizes, these birds can blend extremely well with their surroundings due to their remarkable camouflage abilities and long graceful neck. 

Since these types of herons in Texas prefer fresh bodies of water such as marshes or swamps, they can be commonly seen along the coast or near wetlands in the central and eastern portions of Texas.

American bitterns nest in solitary locations amongst dense reeds or tall grasses, using thick vegetation as cover from predators. 

They mostly feed on aquatic insects and amphibians but also hunt small fish, mollusks, and crayfish hiding among marsh vegetation.

Additionally, American Bitterns migrate south during wintertime in search of suitable feeding grounds; however, they generally remain close to coastal areas, like much of South Texas, throughout the year.

11. Great Blue Heron

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

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird species common in wetlands throughout most of North America, including Texas.

It is the largest heron in the region and can grow to over four feet tall. 

Texas’s majestic types of herons have long legs, a sleek black crown, a white back, and wings adorned with grayish-blue feathers.

Their diet consists mostly of fish, which they hunt by standing motionless at the edge of a pond or river bank until they spot their prey while scanning with their yellow eyes.

When ready to strike, they use their long yellow bill to snag their meal before flying off gracefully into the sky. 

Great Blue Herons are a much-loved symbol of Texas wetlands, and when seen soaring above wetlands on an early summer sunrise, it’s easy to understand why!

12. Little Blue Heron

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

Lastly, The Little Blue Heron, scientific name Egretta caerulea, is a species of heron native to the wetlands and coasts of North America and Central America.

Smaller than some relatives, the Little Blue Heron typically reaches just over two feet in height and has wingspans that can reach almost five feet across. 

These types of herons in Texas are known for their shimmery, light blue feathers and white bellies.

They are primarily found in estuaries, coastal marshes, large lakes, ponds, and other aquatic habitats throughout Texas. 

These birds feed primarily on aquatic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, although they have also taken insects occasionally.

With their vibrant coloring and graceful soaring flight patterns, Little Blue Herons are usually easy to spot when they appear in Texas wetlands and beach areas.


Texas is home to many species of Herons, ranging from the Great Blue Heron found on nearly every continent to the smaller, lesser-known Reddish Egret and others listed above.

The variety of habitats in Texas provides a perfect setting for these long-legged wading birds to congregate and breed.

There are different types of herons in Texas, and many others can be seen migrating through or occasionally visiting the state during winter.

While Texas may not be the best place for birders to spot rare or exotic heron species, its wide array of wetlands makes it an excellent destination for watching some of North America’s most common and beloved heron species in their native habitat.

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