Tule Ponds at Tyson


Great blue herons and great and snowy egrets feed on fish, crayfish, frogs, insects and rodents in shallow edges of open vegetation by wading and stalking slowly, then lunging the beak quickly to catch prey.  In flight, their necks are held in an S-curve.  They may make a long glide when landing.  They nest and roost in tall trees. 

 Most herons and egrets have long plumes in breeding season.  When they were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s by plume hunters supplying feathers for women’s hats, the Audubon Society was formed to protect them.


Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodius

Adult great blue herons stand about 4 feet tall in normal alert posture.  They have a large white head, long neck, and grayish body.  They utter deep rasping croaks as they fly away and slowly glide to a new location.  These birds have a black stripe above the eye extending into a tuft of feathers at back of the head. The long, pointed, yellow bill is used to spear fish and other prey. Commonly found in marsh, pond, and creek habitats.

Great Egret
Casmerodius albus

A long yellow bill and black feet distinguish the great egret.  Its feathering is all white. Adults have long plumes extending from the back to beyond the tail in breeding season. Great egrets nest in colonies and build their stick nests high up in trees.

Snowy Egret
Egretta thula

The snowy egret has a black bill and black legs with golden “slippers”.  In the breeding season, adults have long plumes on the back, shorter ones on the nape, and a crest on the neck.  When stalking prey, the snowy may spread its wings and stir the water beneath with one foot, leaping after active prey.  Dense colonies of snowies nest low in trees, tules, or on marshy ground.  The Snowy Egret is smaller than the Great Egret.

Green Heron
Butorides virescens

Adult green herons are about the size of a crow.  They fly with their long beaks and legs extended.  Adult green herons have distinctive bluish-green and reddish-brown coloration.  They forage along wooded shores from perches on snags or trees close above the water.  They build stick nests in the upper dense tops of tall trees.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Nycticorax nycticorax

The black-crowned night heron has a stocky build with a thick neck and head.  Adults are whitish to pale gray except for the black cap and bill.  It has red eyes and yellowish legs.   It spends the day in dense tree canopies or clumps of tules and cat-tails and flies out to feed  at night.  It is the most adaptable heron and is found in lakes in city parks.

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