For more information and images on Tricolored Herons, visit the Categories section below, in Florida Animals — or in such posts as Mr. Personality, Courtship Colors, Tricolored Herons: The Grown-Ups, Tricolored Herons: The Young Ones, and more.
Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. —Edward O. Wilson (Biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist, and author)
The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) was formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, as it was one of the most abundant herons found in the Deep South. It’s a medium-sized and slender heron that lives in the southeastern United States (but as far north as coastal New Jersey), Central America, and the Caribbean. Standing approximately 22 inches tall on long yellow legs, this heron’s wingspan reaches 3 feet. Beautiful slate blue feathers cover most of its body, save a white-striped chest and belly, and a rust-colored neck. The eyes of the juveniles are a yellowish-white, turning brown with pink inner margins as they age. Males and females of the species look alike. During courtship, these already beautifully colored herons become even more vibrant: the eyes turn a lovely and striking scarlet, and their otherwise long, pointed yellow bill turns blue. Breeding plumage involves filamentous plumes on the head and neck, and buff plumes on the back.
Their natural habitats are swamps, marshes, bayous, lagoons, and coastal ponds. It’s a common sight in our wetlands to see them nesting in colonies, in the trees and shrubs, with other herons. The male selects the nesting location, and builds the nest with the female. As with other herons, both parents care for the chicks, feeding them regurgitated food. Tricoloreds stalk their prey in the shallow waters, looking for fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects. They’ve been known to delve into the deeper waters however, with only their bodies visible.
We’re fortunate to have secure and protective habitats for these most lovely creatures; without continued preservation efforts however, many amazing and unique ecosystems — the Everglades, Longleaf Pine, Scrub, Mangrove, and more — will remain in decline. As they disappear, so do the plant species and wildlife that depend upon them for survival. According to the study Endangered Ecosystems: A Status Report on America’s Vanishing Habitat and Wildlife, Florida contains ecosystems at the most risk. There are no other Everglades; it behooves us to not only protect what’s left, but to return what we’ve so rudely taken.