Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Tricolored Heron - Egretta tricolor
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The Tricolored Heron is the third of a trio of closely related and easily found coastal waders. Unlike the Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron, the Tricolored Heron (formerly known as the Louisiana Heron) shows a distinct fondness for salt and brackish waters, though it does occur with the others on fresh water pools and impoundments. Also, breeding numbers of this species have declined only modestly. It breeds only coastally; it has never been found nesting in the state at sites away from brackish or salt waters. Not surprisingly, most post-breeding birds tend to stay along the coast, and thus it is a good find at inland lakes and ponds.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status SC
U.S. Status
State Rank S2B,S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident along the coast, being migratory and thus more numerous in spring, late summer, and fall. Fairly common to locally common along the entire coast, from Mar through Oct. Fairly common in early winter along the coast, but declining to uncommon to fairly common by midwinter, and uncommon along the northern coast during the last half of winter. Breeds on small coastal islands with other wading bird species. In the Tidewater zone, generally rare at all seasons, and does not breed; very rare in winter. Farther inland, a rare post-breeding visitor, late Jun to early Sep; casual in spring. Peak counts:
Piedmont Essentially only a post-breeding visitor, mostly Jul through Sep. Rare in the eastern portion, and very rare over most of the region. Very rare spring visitor, in Apr and May. Peak counts: 21, Jordan Lake, 16 Sep 1984. There was a spike in records in the early 1980's at Jordan and Falls lakes, during a period when these two lakes were filling and thus had much shallow water and mudflats.
Mountains Casual to very rare visitor. Five known records: 1, Ashe, 6 May 1962; 2, near the French Broad River in Henderson, 22 Jul 2003; 1, along NC 191 in Henderson, 27 Jul 2013; 1, along Hooper Lane (Henderson), 29 Aug 2020; and 1, Land Harbor Lake (Avery), 5 Apr 2023. This latter record, documented by photos, was remarkably early for a far-inland bird.
Finding Tips It is seldom missed along the coast from Mar into early winter. As a post-breeding bird inland, a few appear at lakes with exposed mudflats in most summers.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-10], LeGrand[2023-01-23], LeGrand[2022-09-14]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.