Herons are a family of migratory birds found in many regions, including Virginia.
Virginia‘s distinct types of herons range from the Great Blue Heron to the Black-crowned Night Heron.
These types of herons in Virginia can often be seen wading in the shallows of rivers and wetlands, looking for prey, or nesting in trees or on logs along the shoreline.
They are elegant, long-legged water birds with intricate plumage that give them an exotic appearance and pair them with some of Virginia’s most beautiful birding spots.
Let’s examine the types of Herons in Virginia.
1. Reddish Egret
The reddish egret is first on our list of types of herons in Virginia. It is a species of heron native to Virginia and several other states in the southern United States.
It is the only member of the Ardeidae family in the state, making it a unique part of Virginia’s natural history.
The reddish egret grows up to 30 inches tall, with adults having gray-brown upper parts and wings, yellow-green legs and feet, a white neck and face, bright red eyes, and light pinkish-white bellies.
During the breeding season, they develop long cattails that shoot up like antennae from the top of their head.
These types of herons in Virginia egrets are commonly found around U.S estuaries, wetland habitats, and saltwater lagoons, searching for food such as small fish, crustaceans, and insects.
Reddish egrets were once abundant in Virginia until an influx of hunters nearly caused their extinction around the early 1900s.
Thanks to conservation efforts, their population has returned years later, but they are still classed as a species of special concern by the Department Of Environmental Quality.
Since then, numerous conservation projects have been set up to ensure their survival in Virginia, such as habitat preservation, nesting structures, and population monitoring programs.
More recently, they have been added to Virginia’s Bird Conservation Plan and listed under The Endangered Species Act as a threatened species ensuring their protection nationwide.
Overall the reddish egret is an integral part of our natural heritage here in Virginia, whose importance should not be overlooked considering its place on our endangered species list.
Their importance goes beyond just providing us with something nice to look at; these majestic types of herons in Virginia play an important role in maintaining healthy habitats for a wide range of wildlife.
Although unless efforts continue, these magnificent birds may one day no longer be found in Virginia’s skies
2. Great Egret
The Great Egret is also on our list of types of herons in Virginia and other parts of the United States.
Its population can be found along rivers, lakes, marshes, and other wetland areas.
This species stands roughly three feet tall with silver-white feathers, a yellow bill and legs, and black feet.
The Great Egret is an iconic bird known for its graceful appearance as it wades through shallow waters, looking for fish, frogs, tadpoles, and insects to eat.
The Great Egret is an impressive sight as they soar above wetlands or gracefully move their long necks while searching for prey; however, they are not generally territorial with other birds of similar size.
In Virginia, they build nesting colonies near bodies of water alongside other types of herons, such as Snowy Egrets and Redish Egrets.
They also coexist peacefully with Ospreys that frequently hunt in the same areas.
Great Egrets are useful predators that consume various small aquatic animals like crayfish.
This helps maintain ecological balance in wetlands by controlling populations of undesirable species like bullfrogs that can unfavorably alter wetland habitats.
They also benefit from being adapted to live on land due to their strong talons, so they can usually outrun danger on land if there hasn’t been time for them to take off into flight.
In winter, some Great Egrets migrate further north. Still, large numbers remain in the Chesapeake Bay area all year round, occupying important feeding sites like drainage ditches where algae accumulate, creating perfect breeding habitats where these types of herons in Virginia can reproduce each year successfully.
In Virginia, they are an irreplaceable part of the local ecosystem that contribute towards healthy wetland ecosystems full of biodiversity vital for a thriving environment across the region.
3. Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is a majestic and impressive bird species in Virginia.
It is one of the state’s most recognizable wading birds, standing up to four feet tall with a long S-shaped neck and sharp bill.
This species varies in size, making it difficult to spot among other nearby birds.
The great blue heron lives mainly near wetlands, marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and other slow‐moving water bodies across Virginia.
During the nesting season, they can often be seen perched at the top of dead trees near shallow waters, which they use for their hunting grounds.
They usually begin building their nests as early as February around heat sources such as tree stumps or old logs left at water lines to stay warm during chilly winter months.
The Great Blue Heron’s diet consists of small fish such as carp, perch, and catfish and other aquatic species such as insects (e.g., beetles), frogs, and snakes.
Their range within the state spans both eastern and central Virginia; however, the greatest concentrations tend to occur in the western areas near estuarine habitats ideal for juvenile small‐fishes, which this species readily consume.
4. Least Bittern
The Least Bittern is a species of heron that breeds in the United States, from Virginia to northern California.
This small heron has yellowish-brown upper parts with white underparts. They also have long, thin necks and streaks on the sides of their head and neck.
These small wading types of herons in Virginia typically inhabit freshwater wetlands and marshes but may also be found on saltwater marshes.
The Least Bitterns throughout Virginia’s wetlands include rivers, ponds, flooding fields and meadows, sloughs, marshes, and coastal streams.
These types of herons in Virginia mostly feed on insects or small fish by hunting while stalking in shallow water or dense vegetation.
On their breeding sites, they tend to patrol their territories while flying low over the water’s surface in search of prey.
When not breeding, Least bitterns will migrate south across Central America down to Peru during winter months, where they will inhabit floodplain lake margins for foraging opportunities.
All Least Bittern nests are typically built close to the water and located near heavy covers like cattails or bulrushes, which provide enough security for males to perform mating displays like head bobbing and bill flagging as part of courtship behavior towards potential mates.
The nest is a deep cup made of dense vegetation. However, it lacks any lining material, making it well hidden.
It is easily subject to flooding during unpredictable weather changes, leading to eventual abandonment if necessary so the bird can survive in another area unharmed.
5. Little Blue Heron
The Little Blue Heron, scientifically known as Egretta caerulea, is next on our list of types of herons in Virginia and other parts of the United States.
This long-legged, white, and blue bird is considered a bold hunter and can be seen in many of Virginia’s swamps, marshes, ponds, and estuaries.
Little Blue Herons are approximately 24 inches long with light gray or blue-gray plumage on their upper body and head.
They have white underbellies with yellowish legs that add to the bird’s distinct coloration.
Juveniles are very similar in appearance to adults but may have gray feathers around their bill and neck, giving them an overall grayish look.
Little Blue Herons feed mainly on small fish, crabs, tadpoles, and amphibians.
As they slowly stalk through shallow water looking for prey, they might fly up suddenly to catch larger fish from deeper areas.
Their powerful beaks are well adapted for catching slippery prey items such as small crayfish or fish that move too quickly for them to catch in shallow water areas.
Breeding season begins in late spring when most members of the species already have their breeding plumage intact; typically, this includes a chestnut coloring found around the throat that has been said to resemble an “Egyptian necklace” made out of jewels.
During this time, they will construct large communal roost sites which can house up to 150 individuals at one time; nests are made out of sticks lined with twigs or grasses built in small trees near or over bodies of water.
6. Snowy Egret
The Snowy Egret is a type of heron found in Virginia. Virginia’s graceful types of herons have white plumage and long, black legs with yellow feet.
With its slender body and delicate features, the Snowy Egret is a beautiful addition to any Virginia wetland habitat.
Snowy Egrets live in various habitats within Virginia as long as there is access to shallow wetlands such as ponds, marshes, riversides, or swamps.
They typically look for prey such as fish, amphibians, or invertebrates from perches nearby or by wading through shallow water.
Their diet also consists of small reptiles and birds. During the breeding season, the Snowy Egrets are monogamous and form pair bonds for up to several years.
They build nests near floating vegetation or among thickly grown marsh plants which offer protection from predators.
The nests average around three feet wide but can be larger than five feet wide
7. Cattle Egret
The Cattle Egret is a type of heron that can be found in many parts of the United States, including Virginia.
These types of herons in Virginia are mostly white and have distinctive yellow bills.
They are also thick-bodied birds, with long pointed wings like their relatives, the bitter, and several species of herons.
Cattle egrets have a long history of association with grazing animals, such as cattle and horses, in both domestic and wild settings.
They use open dry fields for hunting insects stirred up by the grazing animals.
Their diet consists mainly of large insects, including katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles.
When available, they supplement their insect diet with small rodents, frogs, and lizards.
Cattle Egrets can reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour when flying, but they usually stay close to land and rarely migrate farther than 600 miles from where they nest.
Cattle Egrets are known for their gregarious behavior – nesting in colonies that number upwards of 10 individuals or more during mating season – typically beginning at about two years old for females and three years old for males.
In Virginia, you may spot these birds around ponds or other wetland areas near pastures or forests – often flying low over vegetation looking for food or resting atop trees that provide approachable water sources for hunting fish or frogs.
While common throughout much of the state during spring through autumn months, chances of seeing them diminish outside those periods due to migration patterns or reduced availability in certain habitats caused by development projects or other changes to the environment.
8. Green Heron
The Green Heron is found in Virginia and throughout the Eastern United States.
It is a small heron with a beautiful green coloration on its wings and back and some blue feathers on its head.
Green Herons typically live near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, marshes, and ponds, where they can find plenty of food in shallow water.
These types of herons in Virginia are versatile hunters that use tools to increase their success rate, making them unique among bird species.
Green Herons are roughly 18 inches long with a wingspan of 24-26 inches. Their diet consists mostly of insects and fish, but they sometimes feed on crustaceans, frogs, and reptiles.
These birds will stalk slowly along the shoreline to catch their prey or stay still while waiting for an unsuspecting meal.
When something does take an interest, the Herons are fast enough to quickly snatch it up almost immediately before it has time to escape out into deeper parts of the water.
In addition to being talented fishers, Green Herons have been known to use tools like sticks or other pieces of matter to help them feed more effectively.
It is common for these birds to dive down quickly into the water before using a tool to lure food close enough so that they can snatch it up without having to go after it themselves in most cases.
This use of ingenuity gives them an edge over many other types of aquatic predators as it allows them access to much higher quality and easier food sources than may otherwise be available without such tools at their disposal.
9. Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-herons are one of the many types of herons that call Virginia home.
Virginia’s majestic types of herons can be found in the state’s wetlands, marshlands, and residential areas. The black crown of feathers on the head easily identifies this heron species.
Black-crowned Night-herons are small to medium-wading birds ranging from 19 to 25 inches long and are recognizable by their all-black, feathered crown.
They have a white neck, face, and gray wings with a distinctive “mustache” stripe along either side of the upper part of their bill. Their eyes are yellow with dark red lines.
These types of herons in Virginia breed primarily during spring in colonies found near rivers and marshes, often sharing nesting territories among other species like ibises and egrets.
Nests are typically built at least three feet off the ground in trees or shrubs adjacent to water sources.
Black-crowned Night-herons feed mainly on fish, amphibians, crustaceans, insects, small mammals, and reptiles, as well as foraging for carrion or scavenging for prey already caught by predators such as owls or hawks.
During the breeding season, they usually migrate in flocks during late May or early June when food sources become scarce locally.
They venture farther north into Canada or east towards Atlantic coastal regions where food is more plentiful year-round.
When winter arrives, these birds retreat southward to Virginia’s balmy climate, where temperatures rarely drop very low in most parts of the state; however, they may move farther south if weather conditions worsen too dramatically.
With expansive dry grasslands being turned into cornfields or cut down to produce timber ever-increasingly.
Sadly, Black-crowned Night-heron numbers have been falling steadily over recent years due to a significant reduction in suitable habitats available, urging us all to take concrete steps toward conserving these fascinating creatures before it’s too late!
10. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) is a species of heron that typically resides along the coasts, in wetlands, and near waterways in the eastern United States and parts of northern Mexico.
It has been seen as far south as Panama. It can often be found in Virginia during the summer months near salt marshes, sandy beaches, and estuaries.
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron measures an average of 16-25 inches long with a wingspan of up to 41 inches and can weigh up to 1.5 pounds.
Males and females types of herons in Virginia look alike with yellow legs, a white belly, and dark grayish wings bordered with white feathers.
They have an angular crest on the head which can sometimes give them the appearance of having two sets of eyes; this feature inspired their scientific name meaning “twin gaze.”
They feed primarily on crabs, fish, worms, and other aquatic animals, including mollusks and tadpoles, scooped up with their long bill or hunted intently at night using their large eyesight to spot movement in shallow waters.
When spotted during the day, they usually carry small branches or twigs in search of building materials or nesting sites.
Nests are made from sticks that are commonly seen shaped into circular platforms located high up 10-50 ft within trees near water sources like rivers or along sandy beach areas where they may share a habitat with other types of herons such as Great Blue Herons and Black-Crowned Night Herons making colonies several hundred nests large come a breeding season when numbers swell before decreasing once more as migration begins late summer autumn again for most of these species.
11. Tricolored Heron
The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is one of the most iconic waterfowl types of herons in Virginia.
Notable for its blue-gray upper body, white underbelly, and streaks of rust on its neck and chest, the Tricolored Heron thrives near fresh and saltwater marshes, mudflats, and wetland areas throughout the state.
Read more if you’re curious about this unique avian species and what sets it apart from other herons.
This medium-sized heron has a wingspan of 30–38 inches and weighs 24 ounces.
The overall salmon coloration throughout its body gives it its unique appearance, but there’s a lot more to this species than meets the eye.
It typically prefers tidal wetlands, mangrove swamps, or marshy coastal waters when searching for food during mating season or migratory times.
It is also known to occasionally inhabit drainage ditches in various areas across Virginia.
When searching for food, the Tricolored Heron will often stand motionless for an extended period at the shoreline, waiting for prey before quickly lurching forward to spear minnows, frogs, or newts with its pointed beak.
Its diet primarily consists of fish, aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and tadpoles.
With its gorgeous plumage and distinctive feeding habits, this majestic species is beloved among birders who enjoy observing them annually during their seasonal migration north through the United States towards their winter range along coastal Georgia and extreme south Florida.
As their habitat continues to face threats due to increased development pressures, conservation efforts are being implemented throughout Virginia to ensure that these birds enjoy rich wetland habitats necessary for their survival and breeding success.
12. American Bittern
The American Bittern, scientifically known as Botaurus lentiginosus, is last on our list of types of herons in Virginia. It is a type of heron found primarily in Virginia.
These birds are large, measuring up to 27 inches long and weighing about 1.5 lbs. It takes the American Bittern between two to five years to reach its full adult size.
The American Bittern is characterized by its brownish-black head and back, combined with a light yellow chest and striped neck.
This unique coloring helps them blend into surrounding vegetation and makes them difficult for predators to identify.
The American Bittern is primarily a water bird found along rivers and marshes, preying upon insects and small fish.
During mating season, they display an impressive courtship dance while calling out a distinctive low “boom” sound which can be heard up to a mile away!
In the winter, they travel south, searching for food over hundreds of miles before returning to warmer weather during springtime migration.
These remarkable types of herons in Virginia are admired for their beauty and are considered an important part of the state’s natural habitat.
Identifying these birds is relatively easy due to their large size and distinct vocalizations used for communication within their species or with potential mates or even predators such as owls.
Researchers and conservationists are looking for ways to protect this species from habitat loss or industrial pollution threats.
It is essential to study population sizes to better understand the species’ current status in a few regions like Virginia.
The state of Virginia is home to a wide variety of different types of herons.
This diversity and abundance allow for exploring different ecosystems in the area. Different species and locations can be explored and identified easily.
The presence of types of herons in Virginia is crucial, as they are a major part of biodiversity in the area by having such a large range of species present.
This information allows us to better understand the environment around us, giving us even more knowledge on what helps keep our ecosystems alive and healthy.