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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Tricolored Heron

Jun 29, 2017 12:08PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Tricolored Heron

The Tricolored Heron

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), formerly known in North America as the Louisiana Heron, is a small heron. On the southeastern coastal plain, the Tricolored Heron is a characteristic bird of quiet shallow waters. Strikingly slender, with long bill, 

neck, and legs, it is often seen wading belly-deep in coastal lagoons. Although it is solitary in its feeding, it is sociable in nesting, often in very large colonies with various other herons and egrets. Despite some reported local declines, they are still very common in parts of the southeastern United States, and have expanded their range northward during the 20th century. In recent decades, they have nested at many new localities farther north and inland.

Habitat is in marshes, swamps, streams, and shores, mainly in the waters of coastal lowlands. In breeding season, they are usually found near salt water, on shallow, sheltered estuaries and bays, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps. They are also found locally inland around freshwater marshes, lakes, and rivers. Nests are in colonies in trees, mangroves, or scrub near water.

Foraging is in shallow water by standing still and waiting for prey to approach, or by walking very slowly; sometimes more active, stirring up bottom sediments with one foot, or dashing in pursuit of schools of fish. Solitary in foraging, they may be seen driving away others from a small "feeding territory.” I witnessed a Tricolored Heron fly at a Little Blue Heron to chase it away from a good feeding area at the River Mouth Loop in our own Tijuana Estuary.

Diet is mostly fish, eating mainly small fish of no economic value, also crustaceans (crayfish, prawns), insects (aquatic insects and grasshoppers), tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, lizards, and spiders.

After mating, females lay 3-4, sometimes 2-7, pale blue-green eggs. Incubation is by both sexes,

in about 21-25 days. Both parents feed their young. Young may begin climbing about near their nest at the age of 3 weeks, and are able to fly at about 5 weeks.

Tricolored Herons breed in colonies, often with other species of wading birds. Males select their sites within the colony and display there to attract mates. Displays include neck stretching, deep bowing, and circular display flights. Nest sites depend on the colony location, which may be in trees, mangroves, willows, thickets of dry scrub, and sometimes on the ground; their nests usually 2-10' above ground, sometimes up to 30'. Nests (built mostly by females, with materials gathered by males) are a platform of sticks, with a shallow depression at center, lined with finer twigs and grasses.

I was lucky enough to spot this infrequent visitor along the River Mouth Loop in our own Tijuana Estuary. They are a beautiful small heron, and a joy to behold. Look, and you may see one yourself. Until next week, happy birding!


If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week

Bryan Brillhart'



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