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Herons Of Arkansas

Arkansas Heron

The heron family consists of the following birds:


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American Bittern Botaurus lentiginous

The American Bittern is a dark brown bird with a black stripe on it's neck and dark wing tips.  It's size varies from 24 to 34 inches long.  This species of bird is transient and observed in small numbers.  This bird can be found in flooded fields with tall grasses, in low wet places and marsh-like vegetation.  This species can be found in Arkansas during the spring in the months of March, April and May.  The American Bittern breeds north of Arkansas.  The fall migration takes place in October and November.  The American Bittern has only been seen in the winter as single sightings.         

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Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis

The Least Bittern is a buff colored bird with patches of chestnut on it's wings and a black on the crown and back.  This bird is small and varies from 11 to 14.5 inches long.   The Least Bittern is a local resident of Arkansas during the summer in small numbers.  This Bittern resides in lowland areas of the Arkansas River Valley.  It can be found in Arkansas in the spring months of April and May.  The Least Bittern is found breeding in the counties of Jefferson, Arkansas, Lincoln, Lonoke and Phillips.   The breeding season occurs in the months of June and July.  It usually takes place in shallow standing water, tall grasses and cattails.  This bird is not usually found after July in Arkansas.


Great Egret - Casmerodius albus 

The Great Egret was formerly called the "American" and "Common" Egret.  This species is large and white with yellow bill and snout and black legs and feet.    The Great Egret is usually 37 to 41 inches long.   It is found only in small numbers in the lowlands and in the Arkansas River Valley.  They have been observed in flooded fields, along major rivers and in shallow waters of lakes.  The Great Egret can be found as early as March at Big Lake Refuge in Mississippi county.  Nesting usually take place between April and June.  Nests have been found as high as eighty feet in cypress trees over water at Grassy Lake.  Populations of Egrets have fluctuated due to land clearing, pesticides and shooting.  In 1940, they were protected by a law that kept people from shooting them.  In July the Great Egret can be found in shallow reservoirs and flooded fields.   This bird usually disappears from Arkansas by October but occasionally one or two have been sited in December.

 Snowy Egret - Egretta thula

The Snowy Egret is white with a very slim neck, black bill and black legs with yellow feet.  It is a very small bird that varies from 22 to 26 inches in length.  The Snowy Egret is not very common to Arkansas.  When it is found it is usually in very small numbers.  They have been found in the lowlands and in the Arkansas River Valley.  They are usually found from late March to middle May.  The Snowy Egret always nest in small numbers in Arkansas.  The Snowy Egrets have been known to fight with the Cattle Egret at the nest in Grassy Lake.  Most Snowy Egret are gone from the state by October.

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Cattle Egret - Bublucus ibis

The Cattle Egret  is a small bird that is mainly white with a yellow bill, pale legs and a buff crown and chest.  The size of this species varies from 19 to 21 inches long.  The Cattle Egret is a common migrant and summer resident to all regions of Arkansas.  This species is very common in the lowlands and the Arkansas River Valley.  They are not commonly found in Arkansas in the winter but can sometimes be found in the south part of Arkansas.  The Cattle Egret is found in Arkansas as early as February in the south and mid-March in the north.   The first record of Cattle Egret being in the United States was in 1942 in Florida.  They begin their nesting much later that other heron and egrets.  This species does not build their nests until May.  The main population of Cattle Egret are gone by late September or early October.





Great Blue Heron   Ardea herodias

The Great Blue Heron is mainly gray with a white head, two black crown stripes and a yellow bill.  It's size varies from 50 to 54 inches in length.   The Great Blue Heron is a common resident in all region of Arkansas.   Most people refer to the Great Blue Heron as a crane.  The breeding season begins with nesting in the middle of February and continue through June.  Nests are often found over dry land in the tallest trees of undisturbed bottomland forests near streams and bodies of water.  They have also been found in large pine trees growing in hardwood swamps and in a cypress swamp at Grassy Lake. The Great Blue Heron usually nest in separate colonies in dry land sites.  In the fall these herons can be found in shallow  waters of lakes.

Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea 

The Little Blue Heron is mainly blue with a dull purple head and neck,  blue to blackish bill and green colored legs.  Its size varies from 25 to 29 inches long.  The Little Blue Heron is a common transient to all regions in Arkansas.   It spends it's summers and breeding periods near major lakes and rivers. It is generally found in the Arkansas River Valley.   Occasionally is found in the winter months in southern lowlands.  Little Blue Herons begin to arrive in mid-March and begin nest construction.  The Little Blue Heron's nesting season begins when the bird arrives in the wooded bottomlands.  Nests have been found from heights of three to fifty feet above the ground.   Nests are usually found in small trees or shrubs growing on moist ground or in shallow standing water.  Little Heron's prefer to build all new nests each year instead of using the previous year's nest even though they are intact.   More than 1000 adult birds have been found nesting in the cypress swamp at Grassy Lake.

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Tricolored Heron   Egretta tricolor

The Tricolored Heron is mainly blue-gray with a white belly and rump and a bluish black bill.  It is usually 24 to 26 inches in length.   The Tricolored Heron  was formerly called the "Louisiana Heron".  This Heron is not a regular  summer resident but has been seen in the lowlands of the Red River bottoms and the Arkansas River bottomlands at Fort Smith.  The Tricolored Heron has been seen in Arkansas from late June to early November.  

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Green-backed Heron   Butorides striatus  

The Green-backed Heron is green with a black crown, purplish neck and orange-yellow feet.  This species varies from 18 to 20 inches in length.   The Green-backed Heron is formally Know as "Green Heron".  They are a common migrant and summer resident along the streams and lakes in all region of Arkansas.  This heron arrives in March to the lowlands of south Arkansas.  The nesting period of the Green-backed Heron is from late April to early August.  The nest of the Green-backed Heron is usually a thicket of small trees like willows near a lake or stream.  They are also found in a woodlot or cedar grove far away from water.  In late summer and fall they may be found in large numbers around fish ponds.

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Black-Crowned Night-Heron    Nycticorax nycticorax

The Black-Crowned Night-Heron  has a black crown and back with white underneath parts and pale gray wings.  It is usually 23 to 28 inches in length.   The Black-Crowned Night-Heron can be found in the summer in the southern lowlands in small numbers.  They arrive as early as the second week of April.  They have been found nesting with other colonial birds.  The  Black-Crowned Night-Heron have disappeared due to loss of appropriate nesting habitat, pesticide pollution, and drainage of wetlands. This bird can be seen as late as mid-October in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Nycticorax violaceus

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is mainly gray with white crown and cheek patch, black bill and a yellow forehead.  It's size varies from 22 to 28 inches in length.  The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is a summer and migrant resident of Arkansas.  It can be found in wooded swamps, lakes and stream bottomlands in Arkansas.  They can be found nesting in the Coastal Plains and found in the lowlands after breeding season.   This species of Heron can be found as early as April and breeding season is usually during May and June.  By mid-July they can be found in shallow water feeding and can be found in large congregations.

Arkansas HeronArkansas HeronArkansas Heron



Readers Digest; Book of North American Birds; The Readers Digest, Inc; New
York/Montreal; 1990

James, Douglas and Neal, Joseph; Arkansas Birds; Their Distribution and
Abundance; The University of Arkansas; Fayetteville; 1986

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