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Heron vs. Egret: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 19, 2023
Herons are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with a variety of species, while egrets are a type of heron known for their bright white plumage and are often smaller.

Key Differences

Herons are diverse wading birds found globally, characterized by their long legs and necks, and typically larger sizes. Egrets, a subgroup of herons, are distinguished primarily by their white feathers and are generally smaller.
Herons come in various colors including grey, black, and blue, while egrets are mostly known for their striking white color. Both herons and egrets share similar habitats such as wetlands, rivers, and lakes.
Herons have a broader range of body sizes and shapes compared to egrets, which tend to have more uniform body types. Both birds are similar in behavior, hunting fish and amphibians in shallow water.
Some herons, like the Great Blue Heron, are among the largest of their kind, whereas egrets, like the Great Egret, are notable for their elegant appearance and plumes. Both are skilled hunters, using their long beaks to catch prey.
The term "egret" is sometimes used to refer to herons with ornamental plumes, which were once highly sought after for fashion purposes. Both herons and egrets play important roles in their ecosystems as predators.

Comparison Chart

Color Variations

Varied colors including grey, blue, and black.
Mostly bright white.


Generally larger with more variation in size.
Often smaller and more uniform in size.


Plumage varies greatly among species.
Known for their ornamental white plumes.


Wide range of wetland habitats.
Similar wetland habitats as herons.


Skilled hunters, using long beaks for fishing.
Similar hunting techniques in shallow waters.

Heron and Egret Definitions


A bird belonging to the family Ardeidae.
Herons are a common sight in this marshland.


A white heron with a slender build and long neck.
An egret waded through the shallow water.


A bird known for its hunting skill in aquatic environments.
The heron swooped down to catch a fish.


A bird with ornamental plumes, especially during breeding season.
In breeding season, the egret displays magnificent plumes.


A bird species found in various colors and sizes.
The grey heron blended into the misty morning.


A bird known for its beautiful white plumage.
The egret's white feathers stood out against the green backdrop.


A large wading bird with a long neck, beak, and legs.
A heron stood gracefully by the lake's edge.


A symbol of purity and elegance in many cultures.
The egret in the art piece represents grace and elegance.


A symbol of solitude and patience in many cultures.
The heron in the painting symbolizes peaceful solitude.


A member of the heron family, often smaller in size.
The small egret was dwarfed by the other waterbirds.


Any of various wading birds of the family Ardeidae, having a long neck, long legs, a long pointed bill, and usually white, gray, or bluish-gray plumage.


Any of several usually white herons of the genera Ardea, Bubulcus, and Egretta, characteristically having long, showy plumes during the breeding season.


A long-legged, long-necked wading bird of the family Ardeidae.


Any wading bird of the genus Ardea and allied genera, of the family Ardeidæ. The herons have a long, sharp bill, and long legs and toes, with the claw of the middle toe toothed. The common European heron (Ardea cinerea) is remarkable for its directly ascending flight, and was formerly hunted with the larger falcons.


Greek mathematician and inventor who devised a way to determine the area of a triangle and who described various mechanical devices (first century)


Gray or white wading bird with long neck and long legs and (usually) long bill


Can herons and egrets be found in the same habitats?

Yes, they often inhabit similar wetlands and water bodies.

Are all egrets white?

Most are, but there are exceptions like the reddish egret.

Are egrets solitary birds?

They can be, but they also gather in groups, especially in breeding colonies.

What do egrets eat?

They primarily eat fish, amphibians, and small aquatic creatures.

How do herons hunt?

They stand still in water, waiting to spear fish with their beaks.

Why are egrets white?

Their white plumage helps with camouflage in their aquatic hunting environments.

What is the main difference between a heron and an egret?

Egrets are generally white and smaller, a subset of the heron family.

Do herons migrate?

Some species do, depending on climate and food availability.

Do egrets mate for life?

They are generally monogamous during breeding seasons, but not necessarily for life.

What's the largest heron species?

The Goliath heron is the largest heron species.

Do egrets have long legs?

Yes, like herons, they have long legs for wading in water.

Can herons fly?

Yes, they are strong fliers despite their large size.

Do herons have predators?

Yes, mainly large birds of prey and some mammals.

What is the breeding behavior of egrets like?

They often nest in colonies and have elaborate courtship displays.

How long do herons live?

Their lifespan varies, but some can live up to 15 years in the wild.

Are egrets protected species?

Many egret species are protected under various wildlife conservation laws.

What habitats do herons prefer?

They prefer wetlands, lakes, rivers, and marshes.

Can herons be found in urban areas?

Yes, some species have adapted to urban environments.

What time of day are egrets most active?

They are mainly active at dawn and dusk.

Do herons have a significant role in their ecosystem?

Yes, they are important predators in aquatic ecosystems.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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