In the article “4 Types of Herons Found in Wyoming,” readers will discover the different species of herons that can be found in Wyoming’s water habitats. From the majestic Great Blue Heron to the secretive American Bittern, these elegant birds are a sight to behold. The article provides fascinating facts about each species, from their identifying characteristics to their preferred habitats and behaviors. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or simply curious about the wildlife in Wyoming, this article will introduce you to the diverse world of herons in the state.
1. Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is a very tall and large bird, known for its long neck and wide black stripe over their eye. As the name suggests, they are a grayish-blue color and have long feather plumes on their head, neck, and back.
The Great Blue Heron is typically seen in Wyoming along the edges of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. They can be found throughout North America, with their range extending from Alaska and Canada all the way down to the Caribbean and Central America.
Habitat and Behavior
Great Blue Herons are commonly found in shallow water habitats such as marshes, swamps, and along the coast. They are excellent waders and can often be seen standing motionless or moving very slowly through the water, patiently waiting for their prey to come within striking distance. When an opportunity presents itself, they can strike quickly and ferociously to grab something to eat.
The diet of the Great Blue Heron mainly consists of fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even other birds. They are skilled hunters and use their long beak and sharp eyesight to locate and catch their prey.
Nesting and Breeding
Believe it or not, Great Blue Herons mostly build their nests, which are made out of sticks, very high up in trees. They almost always nest in large colonies that can include up to 500 different breeding pairs. It’s quite astonishing that almost all of the breeding pairs nest in the same few trees! This behavior provides protection and safety in numbers.
The Great Blue Heron is known for its majestic appearance in flight. When flying, they fold their neck into an “S” shape and have their long legs trailing straight behind. This makes them fairly easy to spot in the sky once you know what to look for.
When disturbed or in flight, Great Blue Herons make a loud “kraak” or “fraunk” sound. This distinct vocalization helps to alert others of their presence and can often be heard in their nesting colonies.
2. American Bittern
The American Bittern is a medium-sized, stout heron that is typically a buffy brown color. They have white underparts with brown streaks, which help to camouflage them in their freshwater marsh habitat.
The American Bittern can be found in Wyoming, particularly in freshwater marshes. They have a wide distribution across North America, from Alaska and Canada down to parts of Florida and Central America.
Habitat and Behavior
American Bitterns are extremely secretive birds and are perfectly adapted for their marshy habitat. They are often seen standing motionless, blending in with the surrounding reeds and vegetation. They are patient hunters and will wait for a fish, invertebrate, amphibian, or reptile to come close enough for them to grab and swallow headfirst.
The diet of the American Bittern consists mainly of fish, invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles. Similar to other heron species, they use their sharp beak and keen eyesight to locate and catch their prey.
American Bitterns have a unique call that can be used to help identify them. During the breeding season, they emit a loud, odd-sounding “oong-KA-chunk” call, which has a liquid sound to it. This call is often heard in their marshy habitats and can help birdwatchers locate them.
3. Black-crowned Night-Heron
The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a relatively small, stocky heron with a compact body. They often appear hunchbacked as they tuck their neck into their body. They have a black head and back, which contrast against their white belly and gray wings.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are common in wetlands across Wyoming and have the most extensive range of any heron species in the world. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, often near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and marshes.
Habitat and Behavior
As their name suggests, Black-crowned Night-Herons are most active at dusk and during the evening. During the day, they hide amongst brush and vegetation near the water’s edge. By foraging at night, they can avoid competition from other heron species. They are skilled hunters and feed on a variety of prey, including fish, frogs, insects, and small mammals.
The diet of Black-crowned Night-Herons consists mainly of fish and other aquatic creatures, but they are opportunistic hunters and will also eat insects, small mammals, and even birds. They use their sharp beak to snatch up their prey.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are known for their distinctive black crown and back, which contrasts against their white belly and gray wings. They have a relatively small and compact body compared to some other heron species.
When disturbed or under duress, Black-crowned Night-Herons give a loud, barking “quawk” sound. At their nesting colonies, they can produce a variety of other vocalizations, including croaks, hisses, screams, clucks, and rattles.
4. Snowy Egret
The Snowy Egret is a completely white, medium-sized heron with a black dagger-like bill. They have black legs, but their feet are yellow. One distinctive feature is a yellow patch of skin beneath their eye.
Snowy Egrets can be found in Wyoming, particularly near bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, and marshes. They have a wide distribution throughout the Americas, from the northern parts of the United States and Canada down to parts of South America.
Habitat and Behavior
Snowy Egrets primarily inhabit shallow water habitats, where they wade through the water to find their prey. They are skilled hunters and will often use their yellow feet to stir up water or mud to uncover hiding invertebrates, amphibians, or fish. Once their prey has been found, Snowy Egrets are agile and have no problem running their food down to finish the job.
The diet of Snowy Egrets consists mainly of fish, insects, crustaceans, and other small aquatic creatures. They have a variety of foraging techniques, including stalking, wading, and running.
One interesting behavior observed in Snowy Egrets is intense sibling rivalry. In some cases, the weakest hatchling is thrown out of the nest by its stronger siblings. While this may seem harsh, it ensures that the strongest babies get the most amount of food and have a better chance of survival.
Snowy Egrets have been known to breed with other heron species, such as Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Cattle Egrets. This can result in hybrid individuals that may display characteristics of both species. If you see a heron that you can’t seem to identify, it may be a hybrid!
Additional Identification Resources
If you need additional help identifying the herons that live near you, there are several books and resources available. The National Geographic Field Guide and The Stokes Field Guide are both excellent references that provide detailed information and illustrations to help with identification.
Wyoming is home to a diverse array of heron species, each with its own unique characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors. From the towering Great Blue Heron to the secretive American Bittern, these elegant birds enrich the wildlife diversity of the state’s water habitats. By understanding their identifying characteristics, range maps, and behaviors, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts can better appreciate and protect these incredible birds.
- 4 Types of Herons Found in Wyoming (2023). (n.d.). Bird Watching HQ. Retrieved from https://birdwatchinghq.com/types-of-herons-wyoming/