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Tricolored heron

Egretta tricolor

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Not Listed
  • FL Status: State-designated Threatened
  • FNAI Ranks: G5/S4 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure/State: Apparently Secure)
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)


Tricolored Heron on Nest

The tricolored heron is a midsized member of the genus Egretta.  This species can reach a length between 24-26 inches (61-66 centimeters) with a wingspan of approximately 36 inches (91 centimeters).  The tricolored heron is named for its distinct coloration. It has a dark slate-blue colored head and upper body, a purple chest, and white underparts.  This species also has a long, slender neck and bill, and is the only dark heron with light underparts.


tri-colored heron

The diet of the tricolored heron primarily consists of fish.

Tricolored herons breed in colonies between the months of February and August.  Females construct nests out of sticks and vegetation collected by the males. Nests are found in trees or shrubs on salt marsh islands or standing water.  Females lay between three to five eggs and both parents share incubation duties.  Eggs hatch approximately 21-25 days after being laid (LaLonde 2003).  The young remain in the nest until they are approximately 35 days old.


tri-colored heron map

Tricolored herons inhabit fresh and saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangrove swamps, lagoons, and river deltas (Frederick 1997).  They can be found from Massachusetts, down through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, to northern Brazil.  Breeding sites can also be found on the Pacific Coast from Baja California down to Ecuador.  Tricolored herons are widespread, permanent residents in Florida, although they are less common in some parts of the Panhandle.


The tricolored heron faces many threats to its population, such as the continued development of wetlands.  As with other birds that inhabit estuaries, the exposure to pollutants and pesticides are a threat to the tricolored heron population (Rodgers 1997, Spalding et al. 1997).  Other threats include alterations to the hydrology of foraging areas, reduced prey abundance, and oil spill impacts to critical breeding, foraging and roosting sites.

Conservation and Management

The tricolored heron is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Threatened by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Biological Status Review (BSR)
Supplemental Information for the BSR
Species Action Plan


Frederick, Peter C. 1997. Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), The Birds of North America Online (A.Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

LaLonde, N. 2003. "Egretta tricolor" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 01, 2011

Rodgers, J. A., Jr.  1997.  Pesticide and heavy metal levels of waterbirds in the Everglades agricultural area of south Florida.  Florida Field Naturalist 25: 33-41.

Spalding, M. G., C. K. Steible, S. F. Sundlof, and D. J. Forrester.  1997.  Metal and organochlorine contaminants in tissues of nestling wading birds (Ciconiiformes) from southern Florida.  Florida Field Naturalist 25: 42-50.