8 Types of Herons in Newfoundland and Labrador (2024)

What kinds of herons can you find in Newfoundland and Labrador?

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

If you visit any type of water habitat, you are likely to see at least one species of heron. These elegant birds are typically found in shallow water, which they enjoy wading through to find food.

Some types of herons are easy to spot when they are around, such as Great Blue Herons. But make sure to keep a close watch near dense aquatic vegetation for smaller, more inconspicuous species.

Today, you will learn about 8 herons that live in Newfoundland and Labrador!

For each heron species, I provide some fun facts and identify them by sight OR sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which herons live near you!


#1. Great Blue Heron

  • Ardea herodias

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A very tall and large bird, with a long neck and a wide black stripe over their eye.
  • As the name suggests, they are a grayish-blue color.
  • Long feather plumes on their head, neck, and back.

Great Blue Heron Range Map

great blue heron range map

Great Blue Herons are typically seen in Newfoundland and Labrador along the edges of rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Most of the time, they will either be motionless or moving very slowly through the water, looking for their prey. But watch them closely because when an opportunity presents itself, these herons will strike quickly and ferociously to grab something to eat. Common foods include fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even other birds.

YouTube video

Check out the Bird Watching HQ YouTube Channel HERE!

Great Blue Herons appear majestic in flight, and once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot them. Watch the skies for a LARGE bird that folds its neck into an “S” shape and has its legs trailing straight behind.

Believe it or not, Great Blue Herons mostly build their nests, which are made out of sticks, very high up in trees. In addition, they almost always nest in large colonies that can include up to 500 different breeding pairs. And unbelievably, almost all of the breeding pairs nest in the same few trees!

When disturbed, these large birds make a loud “kraak” or “fraunk” sound, which can also be heard when in flight. Listen below!


#2. American Bittern

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A medium-sized, stout heron that is a buffy brown color.
  • Underparts are white with brown streaks.

Consider yourself lucky if you can spot an American Bittern in Newfoundland and Labrador!

These herons live in freshwater marshes and are extremely secretive and perfectly camouflaged for their habitat.

American Bittern Range Map

american bittern range map

American Bitterns are most often seen standing motionless, waiting for a fish, invertebrate, amphibian, or reptile to wander near. Once their prey gets close enough, their head darts quickly to grab the victim to swallow headfirst. Interestingly, indigestible parts don’t pass through their digestive system but instead are regurgitated as pellets!

Sound is one of the best ways to find these herons in Newfoundland and Labrador!  During the breeding season, listen for a loud, odd-sounding “oong-KA-chunk” call, which has a liquid sound to it. (Listen below)


#3. Great Egret

  • Ardea alba

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large, white bird with long, black legs.
  • S-curved neck and a daggerlike yellow bill. Look for a greenish area between their eyes and the base of the bill.
  • While they fly, their neck is tucked in, and their long legs trail behind.

Appearance-wise, Great Egrets are the most stunning heron found in Newfoundland and Labrador. These birds especially put on a show during breeding season when they grow long feathery plumes, called aigrettes, which are held up during courtship displays.

Great Egret Range Map

great egret range map

In fact, these aigrettes are so beautiful, Great Egrets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because these feathers made such nice decorations on ladies’ hats. The National Audubon Society was actually formed in response to help protect these birds from being slaughtered. To this day, the Great Egret serves as the symbol for the organization.

YouTube video

 

Slightly smaller than a Great Blue Heron, this species eats almost anything that may be in the water. The list includes reptiles, birds, amphibians, small mammals, and countless invertebrates.

Great Egrets don’t get any awards for their beautiful songs. Listen for a loud sound that is best described as a croak (“kraak).” When surprised, you may hear a fast “cuk-cuk-cuk” alarm call. LISTEN BELOW!


#4. Cattle Egret

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Smaller heron with a yellow bill that often perches with its neck drawn in.
  • Nonbreeding adults are entirely white with black legs.
  • Breeding adults are white but have yellow legs and golden feathers on their head, back, and breast.

Cattle Egret Range Map

cattle egret range map

Cattle Egrets are a bit unique when compared to other herons in Newfoundland and Labrador. Instead of spending their time near water, these birds typically live in fields, where they forage for invertebrates that have been kicked up at the feet of grazing livestock. It’s also common to see them looking for ticks on the backs of cattle!

Interestingly, Cattle Egrets are not native to North America. These herons are originally from Africa but found their way here in the 1950s and have since spread across the country. Their range keeps slowly expanding as people convert land for farming and livestock.

At any time of the year, listen for repeated, raspy “rick-rack” calls.


#5. Snowy Egret

  • Egretta thula

herons in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A completely white, medium-sized heron with a black dagger-like bill.
  • Black legs, but their feet are yellow.
  • A yellow patch of skin beneath their eye.

Snowy Egret Range Map

snowy egret range map

These beautiful herons will often use their yellow feet to stir up water or mud to help them uncover hiding invertebrates, amphibians, or fish. Once their prey has been found, Snowy Egrets have no problem running their food down to finish the job!

Sibling rivalry with these birds can be intense, to say the least.

YouTube video

As you can see in the video above, the weakest hatchling is sometimes thrown out of the nest by its brothers and sisters! While this can be sad to see, this behavior ensures that the strongest babies get the most amount of food.

Interestingly, Snowy Egrets will breed with other heron species, such as other similarly sized birds like Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Cattle Egrets. So if you see a heron that you can’t seem to identify, it may be a hybrid!


#6. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

yellow crowned night heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Gray body and yellow legs. Large red eyes.
  • Black face with white cheeks and a thick black bill.
  • As the name suggests, a yellowish-white crown with long white plumes.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Range Map

yellow crowned night heron range map

This heron species looks for areas with shallow water to live, such as wooded swamps, marshes, mangroves, and other coastal areas. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons can be found near both fresh and saltwater, and crustaceans (crabs and crayfish) make up most of their diet.

They are much more comfortable living near humans than Black-crowned Night-Herons, and will even nest in wooded neighborhoods or on rooftops. Also, whereas Black-crowned Night-Herons mostly forage at night, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons eat and hunt at any time of day.

Upon being disturbed, you will hear a harsh “quawk,” which will probably be repeated a few times.


#7. Little Blue Heron

  • Egretta caerulea

little blue heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults: Have a slate-gray body and a purple-maroon head and neck.
  • Juveniles: During their first year, these herons are completely white!
  • Look for a two-toned bill, regardless of the bird’s age, which is gray with a black tip.

Little Blue Herons are found in shallow wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are patient hunters and will stay motionless for long periods of time, waiting for prey to pass by them. While waiting, they keep their daggerlike bill pointed downwards to be prepared for the moment a fish, amphibian, insect, or crustacean appears.

Little Blue Heron Range Map

little blue heron range map

As you can see above, juvenile Little Blue Herons look completely different than adults! It’s thought that these birds adapted this white plumage so they can be tolerated by Snowy Egrets, who catch more fish. Hanging out with large flocks of white herons also probably helps with avoiding predators. 🙂

Little Blue Herons are mostly silent, but it is possible to hear them squeaking when alarmed. They also emit various screams and croaks while nesting at a colony.


#8. Tricolored Heron

tricolored heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Medium-sized heron that is long and sleek.
  • Adults are a colorful mix of mostly blue-gray with a bit of purple.
  • Distinctive white belly and white stripe that runs down their neck.

Tricolored Heron Range Map

tricolored heron range map

Tricolored Herons are mainly seen in coastal areas in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are fairly active birds, and it’s common to see them running after their prey, which mostly includes small fish.

Being opportunistic feeders, they often travel behind other birds, such as cormorants and grebes, stabbing and eating fish they have stirred up!

Both sexes give a nasally croaking sound.


Which of these heron species have you seen before in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Leave a comment below!

The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!