Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

Tricolored Heron


The tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), formerly known as the Louisiana heron, is a small species of heron native to coastal parts of the Americas; in the Atlantic region, it ranges from the northeastern United States, south along the coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to northern South America as far south as Brazil. In the Pacific region, it ranges from Peru to California, but it is only a nonbreeding visitor to the far north. This species measures from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in) long and has a typical wingspan of 96 cm (38 in). The slightly larger male heron weighs 415 g (14.6 oz) on average, while the female averages 334 g (11.8 oz). It is a medium-large, long-legged, long-necked heron with a long, pointed, yellowish or greyish bill with a black tip. Its legs and feet are dark.

Distribution And Habitat

The Tricolored Heron occurs from North America to northern South America including the West Indies (Raffaele and others 1998). It is a common permanent resident in Puerto Rico (Oberle 2018). It is also present on Vieques (Sorrié 1975), where it is a common resident in winter and spring, fairly common in fall, and uncommon in summer (Gemmill 2015). It usually inhabits saltwater lagoons, mangrove swamps, estuaries, shallow coastal waters (Oberle 2018), and freshwater wetlands (Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 143 records within 95 hexagons or 20 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 95 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 7 percent (7) of the hexagons and possible in 9 percent (9), while the species was observed in 83 percent (79) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Tricolored Heron distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Tricolored Heron Distribution

Breeding Habits

Previously published reports indicate that the Tricolored Heron breeds from April to July (Raffaele and others 1998) and is often colonial with other 153Tricolored Heron/Garza Pechiblancaheron species (Biaggi 1997, Raffaele and others 1998). The nest is usually constructed on a bush or tree limb at a moderate height and consists of a platform made mostly of sticks (Biaggi 1997, Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results suggest that this species breeds mostly from March to September with the most breeding activity in March, April, and July, and to a lesser extent also during December and January (see chart). Results show that this species breeds mostly within the subtropical moist forest life zone (88 percent of the hexagons), and it also breeds in the subtropical wet and lower montane wet forest life zones at higher elevations (6 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The overall population trend of the Tricolored Heron is described as stable. However, some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2012). This species is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Tricolored Heron has a protected habitat in land of 18 percent or 69 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (382 km2).