Herons, egrets and cranes

great blue heron

These beautiful and dramatic birds are easy to spot without binoculars, thanks to their large size. The birds pictured here are the most common species and are normally active during the day.

Herons and egrets hunt by wading slowly through shallow water and striking their prey with lightning speed. They hunt fish, amphibians and other inhabitants of our lakes, ponds and streams.

Sometimes, great blue herons stand so still while hunting, it is difficult to see them against the background.

Great egrets have a yellow bill and black legs. They were hunted nearly to extinction by 1900 due to the large demand for plume feathers for fashionable hats. They have recovered nicely, and are now quite common around major waterways.

For pictures of the less common egrets and herons, click here.


A great blue heron blends in with its surroundings at Lake Springfield in Sangamon County, Illinois. Click here for a photo of a great blue heron colony.

Great egrets take flight from the Sanganois conservation Area (above) and Sangchris Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area (right) in central Illinois. Both great egrets and great blue herons are common and regularly seen during the warmer months in Illinois

Sandhill cranes conduct a courtship dance ina corn stubble field.

Sandhill Cranes are most often seen crossing the east-central and northeast portions of Illinois during spring and fall migration when they travel between their northern breeding grounds and their Florida winter home.

Note that the red patch on the crane's forehead is skin, not feathers!

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