Types of Herons in Wyoming! (4 species)

What kinds of herons can you find in Wyoming?

common herons, egrets, and bitterns in Wyoming

 

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 4 herons that live in Wyoming!

 

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!

  • 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!

 

To learn more about other water birds near you, check out these guides!

 

The 4 Types of Herons That Live in Wyoming:

 


#1. Great Blue Heron

great blue heron - types of herons in Wyoming

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 Wyoming 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.

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

american bittern - species of herons in Wyoming

 

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 Wyoming!

 

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 Wyoming! During the breeding season, listen for a loud, odd-sounding “oong-KA-chunk” call, which has a liquid sound to it. (Listen below)

 


#3. Black-crowned Night-Heron

black crowned night heron - common herons in Wyoming

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A relatively small, stocky, compact heron.
  • Appears a bit hunchbacked, as it often tucks its neck into its body.
  • Black head and back, which contrast against its white belly and gray wings.

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron Range Map

black crowned night heron range map

 

Black-crowned Night-Herons are common in wetlands across Wyoming. In fact, they are the most widespread heron in the world, but they are often hard to actually locate and see!

 

As their name suggests, these herons are most active at dusk and during the evening. While the sun is out, they spend the day hiding amongst brush and vegetation near the water’s edge. By foraging at night, these birds avoid competition from other heron species!

 

When surprised or under duress, Black-crowned Night-Herons give a loud, barking “quawk. While at their nesting colonies, you can hear a variety of other croaks, barks, hisses, screams, clucks, and rattles. LISTEN BELOW!

 


#4. Snowy Egret

snowy egret

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.

 

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!

 


Need additional help identifying the herons that live near you?

Here are a few books and resources you can purchase that will assist!

 


Which of these heron species have you seen before in Wyoming?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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