Tricolored Heron

Egretta tricolor
Range Map

This bird used to be called the “Louisiana Heron”. In the USA, it is most often seen near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, but it is also resident in central Baja California and the adjacent Mexican coast. In recent years they have roamed further north, and in San Diego, we find non-breeding birds. Rarely straying far from the coast, these birds range as far south as the northern Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America.

I’ve seen Snowy Egrets follow fishing mergansers. They hoping to benefit from the swimming bird as it chased prey to the surface or the shallow water near the shoreline. Tricolored Herons have been observed exploiting the fishing efforts of cormorants.

Modern science recognises two subspecies of Tricolored Heron:

  • E. t. ruficollis lives in the north. Its range extends through the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the USA, both coasts of Mexico, Central America and northern South America and the West Indies.
  • E. t. tricolor lives in a more restricted range that includes northeastern South America and its Atlantic coast to Brazil.

I enjoyed my first meeting with these elegant waders in Mexico, while on a scientific expedition by sea to the Archipiélago de Revillagigedo. That brief flyby encounter was just enough to whet my appetite. That is why it was such a pleasure to find them so accommodating during my visits to Texas in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. South Padre Island provided many intimate encounters with these beautiful birds.

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