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Tricolored Heron

Egretta tricolor

Length: 25 to 28 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Summer (rare)
ID Keys: Dark bluish-gray upperparts, white underparts with white foreneck, long yellow bill with dark tip, reddish-brown stripes on front of upper neck.

Tricolored Heron - Egretta tricolorThe Tricolored Heron is a small, slender heron normally found along the coastlines in the southeastern United States.  The term "tricolored" refers to the dark bluish upperparts, the white underparts, and the reddish brown stripes found on its upper neck.  Tricolored Herons are normally found near salt water, especially during the breeding season, but occasionally are found inland (rarely in South Dakota).  It was formerly called the Louisiana Heron.

Habitat: Generally found near salt water during breeding season, with small populations found on scattered inland lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes, and sloughs. 

Diet: Mostly fish.  Also crustaceans, frogs and tadpoles, salamanders, lizards, and large insects.

Behavior: A solitary feeder, sometimes aggressively defending a small foraging territory from other herons and egrets.  Forages by standing or wading in shallow water in pursuit of prey.

Nesting: Despite their rarity in the state, a handful of breeding records have occurred in the eastern part of South Dakota.  Tricolored Herons are colonial nesters, with colonies often consisting of multiple species of wading birds.  The nest is a large platform of sticks, lined with leaves, grasses, and other vegetative material.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge at about 5 weeks.

Song: Short grunts and groans by breeding males.

Migration: Permanent resident along Gulf Coast, parts of the East Coast.  Some move south in the fall, as far as Central America.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Tricolored Heron sightings

Similar Species: Little Blue Heron

Conservation Status: The species has been increasing range northward, despite some scattered local declines.  They are found over a wide geographic area and are common in parts of their range.  The IUCN lists the Tricolored Heron as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Tricolored Heron

2) Audubon Guide - Tricolored Heron

3) -- Tricolored Heron

Photo Information:  December 10th, 2012 - Big Cypress National Reserve, Florida

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Tricolored Heron photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Tricolored Heron - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare visitor in the eastern part of the state.  There have been a handful of recorded instances of breeding in South Dakota.

Additional Tricolored Heron Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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