Great Blue Heron
This is the largest member of the heron family. Its long legs allow it to wade in deeper water than the other herons. The great blue's powerful neck whips its sharp beak at its prey with great speed. Its favorite meal is fish, but will eat almost any small animal.
This gray-blue heron with a ruffled neck and white belly is very common in south Florida estuaries. An extremely slender bird that uses graceful movements as it searches for fish. To avoid detection by its prey, the tri-colored heron will stand motionless among the grasses with its bill pointing upward.
This small, white member of the heron family has a black beak, black legs and bright yellow feet. Unlike other members of the heron family, the snowy egret shuffles its feet in the water when fishing to stir up shrimp, crabs, insects, and fish.
This large white bird is almost as tall as the great blue heron. It has greenish-yellow legs and a deep guttural croak. The great egret feeds alone, stalking fish, snakes and crustaceans in shallow water.
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
As a night hunter, this heron usually sleeps in trees during the day. The yellow-crowned night-heron can be recognized by the black and white markings on its head. Unlike other herons, it likes to eat crabs — especially fiddler crabs.
This large pink bird hunts for food by swinging its spoon-shaped bill from side to side through shallow water. The six-inch long beak is very sensitive to touch, allowing the roseate spoonbill to feel for small fish, crabs, shrimp and water insects.
Little Blue Heron
This is one of the most common herons in the South and may be observed living among other herons and egrets. The adults are slate blue with maroon necks. The young are white with gray bills. They feed on small fish and insects.
This large stocky bird is usually seen diving dramatically into the water in the pursuit of fish or quietly floating with its bill resting on its breast. It is an expert diver with a massive bill and throat pouch. The brown pelican uses its pouch to separate the fish it catches from the water.
The white obis is a long-legged wading bird with an orange beak. Its long, thin beak is sensitive and curves downward. It is perfect for digging through water-soaked mud as the bird feels for insects, worms, fiddler crabs, and small fish.
The cormorant has a dark body, long neck, orange throat pouch, slender hooked bill and webbed feet. It is an excellent swimmer and diver and catches fish underwater. The cormorant can be seen holding its bill upward when swimming or standing upright with its wings spread to dry when perched.
The osprey, or fish hawk, has a distinctive "m" shaped wing and a unique flight style that makes it instantly recognizable. Its wings are long and narrow with rounded edges and a black rectangular patch at the wrist. The osprey's bright white chest and mottled necklace are also visible from below as it hunts for fish, its only food source. The osprey will flap and glide above the water, stopping to hover briefly and then dive for its prey.
Water Management District
Alafia River Basin Board
Hillsborough River Basin Board
Drawings Courtesy of City of Tamp Parks and Recreation Department