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Herons – Over 64 Species

Herons Quiz
Herons Quiz

If you’ve ever seen a heron, you probably saw a great blue heron, the largest and most common heron in America. This bird has a long neck and long legs. When flying, its wings spread out and its feet trail behind. Not all herons are big though. The heron family includes over 64 species, and some of them are quite small.

Heron Facts For Kids

  • Herons are long-legged wading birds.
  • They primarily eat fish and frogs.
  • Great blue heron is the largest in the US.
  • Herons nest in trees, called rookeries.
  • They have a sharp, dagger-like bill.
  • Herons fly with their necks retracted.
  • They are solitary hunters.
  • Night herons are active at dusk and dawn.
  • They stalk prey silently in shallow waters.
  • Some herons nest in large colonies.


Egrets, a type of heron distinguished by their white color, are a part of the large family of wading birds characterized by their long legs and necks. Like their heron relatives, they are skilled hunters that use their sharp beaks to prey on fish, frogs, and other small creatures in wetlands and marshes. Unlike other herons that can be grey, black, or blue, egrets are typically white, making them easily recognizable.

Another distinguishing feature is their beautiful plumes or long, showy feathers which they flaunt during the breeding season. The beauty of these plumes led to a significant reduction in egret populations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as they were highly coveted in the fashion industry. Nowadays, egrets are protected species and their populations have successfully recovered.


The fascinating facts about herons, particularly for children, are often linked to their primary habitat, the wetlands. These elegant birds are known for their adaptations that allow them to thrive in these environments, including long legs and sharp, pointed beaks used for hunting fish, frogs, or insects. Herons are often spotted standing motionless in shallow water, demonstrating their patience as they wait for their prey.

Their distinctive flight, characterized by their necks bent into an ‘S’ shape, is another unique aspect of these creatures. Wetlands’ rich biodiversity offers an abundance of food and nesting places for various heron species such as the Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, and the Black-crowned Night Heron. Therefore, maintaining the health of these wetland ecosystems is vital to the survival and flourishing of these remarkable birds.

Wading birds

Heron, a wading bird belonging to the Ardeidae family, is known for its special adaptations for aquatic life including long legs, necks, and beaks. These fascinating birds are excellent hunters, skillfully striking their prey with sharp beaks after standing still in shallow water.

Their unique ‘S’ shaped neck folding during flight and trailing legs further add to their intriguing characteristics. With about 60 different species worldwide, each brandishing distinct colors and features, herons represent a diverse and captivating group of wading birds, making them an exciting subject for kids to explore.

Freshwater habitats

Herons, captivating avian species often spotted around freshwater environments such as rivers, marshes, lakes, and ponds, are known for their dietary preference for fish, frogs, and other small aquatic creatures. Their unique physical attributes, including long, slender legs and a sharp, pointed beak, facilitate wading into the water and efficient prey capture.

Demonstrating remarkable patience, herons can stand motionless for extended periods, biding their time to pounce on prey at just the right moment. Equipped with outstanding flying skills, they can cover vast distances, migrating in pursuit of food and more temperate climates. So, whenever you find yourself in proximity to a freshwater habitat, be sure to watch for these remarkable birds and their distinctive hunting strategies!


Birdwatching is an engaging and informative pastime for children, particularly when they have the opportunity to observe a heron, a tall, captivating bird, known for its unique behaviors and striking aesthetics. The ability of a heron to stand motionless in water as it patiently hunts its aquatic prey can leave children in awe, especially when they witness the bird’s swift strike as a fish passes by.

Typically found near bodies of water like rivers, ponds, or coastal areas, herons are an ideal species to search for during family nature walks. Their distinctive flight pattern, characterized by their ‘S’ shaped neck, makes them easily identifiable even from afar. It’s important to note that birdwatching isn’t solely about visual identification but also involves understanding the bird’s behaviors and habitats, an experience that can foster children’s appreciation and respect for nature.


Marshes serve as ideal habitats for heron species, providing them with an abundance of insects, amphibians, and fish to feed on. The marshland’s towering reeds and grasses afford the herons excellent camouflage, enabling them to patiently and stealthily stalk their prey in the shallow waters.

Equipped with long legs and sharp beaks, herons are perfectly adapted for hunting in this environment, adopting a strategy of remaining still for extended periods before swiftly striking to secure their meal. Consequently, within the marshland ecosystem, herons play a pivotal role in preserving balance by regulating the population of specific aquatic creatures.

Fish diet

Kids can find heron facts particularly fascinating, particularly those related to their diet. Herons, known for their tall stature and long legs, primarily consume fish, skillfully employing their sharp beaks to snatch their aquatic prey directly from the water. They typically remain motionless in shallow waters, patiently waiting for fish to swim by before swiftly striking.

Ingeniously, they sometimes use their wings to cast shade, which lures the fish. Their diet is diverse, ranging from small minnows to large carp. So, should you spot a heron standing still as a statue near a water body, it’s likely waiting for its fish meal.

Long-legged birds

Heron, a long-legged bird species, is an intriguing exemplification of nature’s incredible adaptability, meticulously crafted for an aquatic lifestyle. Their height, ranging from 1 to 1.5 meters, is attributed to their long legs, which are not merely ornamental but functional for wading through shallow waters in their quest for food.

The diet of herons predominantly consists of fish, amphibians, and small mammals. Another noteworthy adaptation is their toes, which spread out in the water, assisting them in maintaining balance. The remarkable ability of these birds to stand immobile in water for several hours, patiently awaiting their prey, would surely astonish young bird enthusiasts. Thus, the study of herons offers an exciting exploration of nature’s adaptability for children with an interest in ornithology.

Nesting platforms

Heron nesting platforms, captivating structures that are often found high in trees or on cliffs, offer an enchanting spectacle for children. These large nests, built by herons as a safety measure against predators, are used year after year with additional materials enhancing their size and sturdiness over time. A single platform can accommodate multiple nests, forming a heronry – a colony of breeding herons.

The nests, constructed from twigs and branches, can measure up to 4 feet across and house between 2 to 7 eggs laid by the female heron. Both parents alternate in incubating the eggs, demonstrating an admirable example of teamwork in the animal kingdom, as they share the responsibility of nest building and nurturing their young.


Rookeries, typically located in tall trees near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, or swamps, serve as gathering points for herons to construct nests and nurture their offspring. Housing anywhere from dozens to hundreds of nests, these rookeries present quite a spectacle, particularly during the breeding season when herons can be observed transporting sticks and other materials for nest building.

The birth and upbringing of baby herons, referred to as chicks, within these nests further enhances the captivating nature of rookeries. Providing an engaging opportunity for children to gain insights into the intriguing world of these extraordinary birds and their habitats, observing a heron rookery can be a truly enlightening experience.

Herons in the Water Image - Science for Kids All About Herons
All About Herons: This bird has a long neck and long legs. When flying, its wings spread out and its feet trail behind.

All herons are carnivores. Most of them eat fish, shellfish, mice and even insects. Herons often pierce their prey with their sharp beaks and then eat it whole. Sometimes herons choke because they try to eat prey that is too big to fit down their necks. Scientists have seen herons tossing seeds or fruit in the water to attract fish. Pretty smart, don’t you think?

Heron Choking on Fish Image
Sometimes herons choke because they try to eat prey that is too big to fit down their necks.

Fun Facts about Herons for Kids

  • Herons build nests in colonies. The nests are made of sticks.
  • Herons live near the ocean as well as near lakes and wetlands.
  • Herons can live 20 years or more.
  • Great blue herons look big, but weigh only about 6 pounds because their bones are hollow.
  • Herons have good vision and can hunt during the night, as well as the day.
Heron Nests on a Tree Image
Herons build nests in colonies. The nests are made of sticks.

Heron Vocabulary

  1. Carnivore: meat eater
  2. Pierce: cut
  3. Choke: unable to breathe because something is stuck in the throat
  4. Colonies: groups
  5. Vision: eyesight
A White Heron Image
Great blue herons are bluish-gray, but some herons are white.

Learn More All About Herons

Watch this silly video of a heron:

A video footage of a heron trying to eat fish.

Heron Q&A

Question: Do heron males help take care of the babies?

Answer: Heron males do help protect the babies.


Question: What color are herons?

Answer: Great blue herons are bluish-gray, but some herons are white.