Little blue heron


Little blue heron: Egretta caerulea

Taxonomic Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus/Species: Egretta caerulea
Common Name: Little blue heron

Listing Status

Federal Status: Not Listed
FL Status: State Species of Special Concern
FNAI Ranks: G5/S4 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure/State: Apparently Secure)
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)

Physical Description

The little blue heron is a small wading bird species that can reach a length of up to 29 inches (74 centimeters), with a wingspan of 41 inches (104 centimeters) and a weight of 14 ounces (397 grams).  Little blue herons have a grayish-blue body and a dark red head during breeding, and a purplish head and neck during non-breeding periods (Rodgers et al. 1995).

Life History

The diet of the little blue heron primarily consists of fish, insects, shrimp, and amphibians.  Little blue herons feed alone, usually along freshwater systems and on floating vegetation. 

The little blue heron nests in colonies, often with other species of long-legged waders.  Nests of sticks are placed in trees and shrubs on islands, thickets near water, or emergent vegetation over water.  Little blue herons will lay three to five blue-green eggs that hatch in 20 to 24 days.  The young are able to leave the nest and fly (fledge) at 28 days of age.

Habitat and Distribution

Little Blue Heron Distribution Map

Little blue herons inhabit fresh, salt, and brackish water environments in Florida including swamps, estuaries, ponds, lakes, and rivers (Rodgers et al. 1995).  In the U.S., the little blue heron can be found from Missouri, east to Virginia, down to Florida, and west to Texas.  In peninsular Florida they are relatively common and widespread but somewhat rare in the Panhandle.  Outside of the U.S, the little blue heron can be found in Cuba, both coasts of Mexico and Central America, down into central South America. 


The current threats to the little blue heron are not well understood.  Threats may include coastal development, disturbance at foraging and breeding sites, environmental issues, degradation of feeding habitat, reduced prey availability, and predators.  Other threats may include exposure to pesticides, toxins, and infection by parasites (Rodgers et al. 1995).

Conservation and Management

The little blue heron is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule External Website.

Biological Status Review (BSR) Adobe PDF
Supplemental Information to the BSR Adobe PDF
Waterbird Colony Ranking Protocol Excel File

Other Informative Links

Birds of North America External Website
Encyclopedia of Life External Website
Florida Natural Areas Inventory External Website
International Union for Conservation of Nature External Website
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology External Website



Printable version of this page Adobe PDF


Rodgers, Jr., James A. and Henry T. Smith. 1995. Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: External Website.

Image Credit Photo by FWC

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