Egret vs Heron: What’s the real difference?

Most people would say their favorite bird is either a HERON or EGRET. They are both very impressive birds. Also, they look similar and are often confused with one another because of this, Egret vs Heron.

Egrets are a species of large water birds with long S-shaped necks and long, skinny legs in the family.

Herons are long-legged wading birds in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognized species.

Let’s take a closer look at each species, shall we?


egerts vs herons

There are 16 Egrets recognized by science. Many stories suggest that herons were named after egrets because Europeans were unfamiliar with them and often confused them with Egrets.

When they first began exploring other areas of the world where these birds live, such as Asia, Africa, and Australia. We were trying to figure out what they were. But we could not see their necks because it was breezy.

They had their heads squatted down. However, we could see it was tall. Egrets had dark legs and fully yellow beaks.

Here is one of the most common EGRET species:

Little Egret

Found all over Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. This species also frequents wetlands and open water. Due to their adaptable nature, little Egrets can be located close to human habitation. They like shallow waters where they stalk prey like fish or frogs while walking slowly through shallow water. Fish is the main prey. They often eat crustaceans and insects.

Great Egret

This large white Heron can be found in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. They nest in colonies located near water when possible. It also eats small mammals, amphibians, reptiles’ eggs, and sometimes even young birds.

Snowy Egret

Native to North America, this may be one of the most familiar EGRET species because its white feathers were used in a feather trade between 1884 and 1900. After that, their numbers reduced drastically. So today, the snowy Egret is on the endangered species list. They like to eat mostly small fish and often hunt in groups which increases their chance of success.


egerts vs herons

Herons are long-legged wading birds in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognized species. 

Their family includes Egrets, Bitterns, Cattle Egrets, Storks, and Night Herons. This group gets its name from the old English word “herg,” meaning “to hide.” Most members of this group have long legs and necks, which they use to hunt for food. Usually, sit and wait patiently in a concealed position until they see prey. Then pounce at lightning speed.

Herons are found all over the world in temperate and warm climates. They can also be found in many wetlands, including swamps, mangroves, rivers, lakes, or even along the ocean shores.

Green Heron

This EGRET is found in North America and most of South America. 

It likes to eat fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects. 

They want shallow waters such as ponds, swamps, or rivers. EGRETS generally have white or buff-colored plumage with long necks and short legs.

 Great Blue Heron

The largest EGRET on the North American continent can be found from northern Canada down to Central America. They love open water habitats along coastlines. But they will build their stick nests high up in trees near water sources and on the ground, depending on what’s available. EGRETs generally have white or buff-colored plumage with long necks and short legs. They eat fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and insects.

The 9 important differences between Egret vs Herons.

Egret vs Heron: Head & Face

Heron’s head is bare and shaggy. The Egret has pale lores (the bare skin around the eyes) and orbital rings.

Egret vs Heron: Legs

Herons have long, thick yellow legs. Their legs are so powerful that they can often be seen standing in waist-high water, leaning forward to spear a fish with its bill. Herons also use their long, sharp bills for defense against predators when threatened or approached too closely by another animal. They also have rather short wings that only reach some of the way down to the ground. On the contrary, egrets typically have black-colored legs and bright yellow feet.

Herons are classified as wading birds. Because they like to stand in shallow waters waiting for fish prey to pass them, which they catch with their long necks and beaks, Herons have longer necks. Herons also fly slowly and low to the ground, which is a good way of catching prey as they can use their long necks and beaks to strike the target.

Egrets usually have solid black legs. Egrets are often seen standing in shallow waters or floating around on top of it. They do this because they feed on frogs, small crabs, millipedes, spiders, and other water creatures. They catch these prey items with their feet equipped with long, curved claws.

Egret vs Heron: Bill/Beak

  • Herons have very long, sharp beaks. These beaks are perfect for catching fish and other aquatic animals. Herons have long, slender necks that they use to spear their prey. Herons can be dark grey or white, depending on the species.
  • Egrets are smaller birds with shorter bills/beaks. The average egret bill is about 1 inch shorter than a heron’s bill at around 3 inches long.

Egret vs Heron: Color & plumage

    • Herons could be pickier about their choice of nesting mate. That is provided the bird is another Heron. Herons are monogamous animals and will generally mate for life. They don’t necessarily build nests; they’ll use whatever shelter is available, like trees, reeds, or grasses in a marsh.

    Herons have a white plumage. The Heron’s ensemble of feathers and color patterns is usually likened to a chessboard, giving them their other common name. The Crane Herons have long necks and legs. At the same time, egrets are known for the elongated plumes that adorn their heads. Herons also sport gray or blue-gray plumage. All are the largest of all North American bird species.

    • Egrets, on the other hand, are quite colorful. Their feathers come in white, black, yellow, and even red. The beautiful plumage that adorns their heads comes in hues of various colors, which include blue, purple, green, and pink. These bright colors make them a treat to the eyes of any casual bird watcher.

    They’re also smaller than Herons and lack a Heron’s plume-like feathers growing from their heads.

    Egrets vs Herons: Behavior & Diet

    Both Herons and egrets are inclined toward a solitary lifestyle. Herons will build platforms on treetops or the roofs of buildings. They use it as an observation point to scan for prey.

    • Herons are carnivores by nature, meaning their diet consists entirely of meat. They will feed on fish, insects, and amphibians. Herons usually eat fish that are between 12 to 24 inches long. But Herons have been known to attack much larger fish. Young Herons are fed by their parents until they are too big to be carried around. Heron & egret behavior is very similar, including nest building.
    • The nests are sticks or reeds lined with delicate plants or feathers.
    • Egrets usually eat insects or plants. Herons & egrets have been known to eat plants from time to time.

    Egrets vs Heron: Weight

      Herons are typically heavier than egrets. They weigh between 5-10 pounds. At the same time, the average weight of an adult heron is around 12 lbs. Egrets are much lighter, usually weighing less than 5 pounds on average.

      Egret vs Heron: Height

      • Heron is generally much taller than egrets. They have very long necks, which they use to spear their prey with deadly accuracy. Herons tend to be large birds. So the average Heron stands at about 3 feet tall. In contrast, the median Egret is only half as tall as a heron at 1 ½ feet tall.
      • Egret’s Height is 3.4 feet.
      • Heron’s Height is 3 feet.
      • Heron’s Height range is 2.5 – 4 feet.
      • Egret’s Height Range is 1 – 3 feet. Herons are taller than egrets.

      Egrets vs Heron: Length

      Herons are generally larger compared to egrets. They have wingspans of around 4 feet, while an average egret or crane has a wingspan of about 3 feet.

      Egrets vs Heron: Wings

      Herons have longer and wider wings than egrets’ shorter and narrower ones. They also have thicker feathers that are more closely spaced together.

      Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

      Are Herons and Egrets related to each other?

      Yes, Egrets are a type of Heron.

      Is Egret a small Heron?

      Yes, An egrets are Heron. Some Egrets are smaller than some types of smaller herons.

      What is the behavior of Egrets and herons?

      Generally, egrets are much more aggressive only towards each other. Herons are mostly quiet, and usually, they avoid humans unless they are threatened.

      Do Egrets and Herons have different feet?

      Egret’s legs and feet are typically black. Herons have lightened color of legs and feet.

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