Tricolored Heron

So this is another heron that I managed to spot on our visit to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center several years ago.

Tricolored Heron

One of the nice things about going to a nature and birding center in a different part of the country is that you are almost guaranteed to see a new bird, butterfly, flower, or whatever that you normally wouldn’t see around your area of the country.

Our trip to South Padre Island allowed me to do just that–see numerous different bird species that I may or may not see around north-central Oklahoma.

Tricolored Heron in the bay at the birding and nature center, South Padre Island Texas

This is a medium size heron (though from a distance they all look as tall as a great blue heron), which is very colorful. This heron has blue-gray, lavender, and white feathers. They also have a white stripe down the middle of their neck and a white belly.

The young have a rusty-colored neck and feathers before molting into the adult plumage.

If you manage to spot one during the breeding season, the adults will also sport small white plumes on the back of their head and they will also have a bright blue patch of skin near the beak, and pink legs.

The tricolored heron is found mostly along the coasts in coastal estuaries, saltmarshes, mangroves, and lagoons during the breeding season; and during the rest of the year, besides the above mention spots they also can be found near freshwater marshes, lake edges, canals and ditches (last two probably mainly in Florida).

Tricolored heron migration map. Map (c) birds of the world.

The best places to try to spot them are the coastal estuaries as they either are feeding alone or the edge of larger groups of waders. You can distinguish them from the Reddish Egret and the Little Blue Heron by their white bellies, and since they’re slightly more active in hunting–that distinguishes them from the Great Blue Heron.

Though they have been spotted at times further north during the summer breeding months. Therefore in the north the best areas to try to spot them would be around freshwater marshes and the edges of lakes and reservoirs.

Tricolored Heron in the bay at the birding and nature center in South Padre Island Texas

These herons tend to focus on smaller fish such as minnows or killfish in open or semi-open brackish waters. Like other herons, they are skilled at stalking, stand-and-wait, and chasing their prey; though they do have a slightly more active foraging style than say the Great Blue Heron.

In addition they will also eat crayfish, shrimp, insects, tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, lizards, and spiders.

Photography goal is to spot one during the summer when they are sporting their breeding plumes and also possibly a young tricolored heron as well.