Difference Between Egrets and Herons

Egrets vs Herons

Egrets and herons are much similar in many aspects. Therefore, it would be one of the most difficult tasks to differentiate them if there is no awareness about the real differences between them. Both of them have long necks, medium to large bodies, and long pointed bills. Taxonomists have categorized them in the same family, and there is more to the confusion as sometimes described both herons and egrets in the same genus. Therefore, the slight differences are extremely important to know before looking at them to differentiate.


Egret is a large bird belongs to the Family: Ardeidae of Order: Ciconiformis. There are 14 species of egrets with varying body sizes. Great white egret is more than 90 centimetres long with a wingspan that extends two metres, and their body weight could go as high as one kilogram, more often. Meanwhile, the body length of little egret is around 60 centimetres with a wingspan of about a metre, and the body weight lies between 300 grams. The speciality about egret is that they have a pure white plumage. Their bill colours could vary as black or yellow depending of the species. Egret bills could be either yellow or black more often, but it is mostly grey in younger ages. They range in tropical and warmer temperate regions of the world, and some of them are migratory. Egrets prefer to stay much of their time on water and they can stay there without a single movement in their body. While they stay unmoved for some time, fish or crabs or frogs would go passing them, and they can grab those food items at once in a blink of an eye. Cattle egrets are important, as they could rest on the back of moving cattle to feed on the external parasites, which demonstrates mutuality between them as a result of co-evolution. However, egrets have beautiful nuptial plumes, and being hunted for their plumage in 19th and 20th centuries excessively.


Heron is a freshwater wading bird that belongs to the same family as egrets and there are more than 40 species of herons. The largest member of the Family: Ardeidae is a heron, which is Goliath heron that measures almost one and half metres for the body length. Green heron is about 45 centimetres long with about 90 centimetres of wingspan and 300 grams of body weight. Because of the modified shape of the sixth vertebrae, they can bend the neck to characteristic S-shape, and they can retract it while flying and extend during resting. The lower part of the leg does not bear feathers and they hold it backwards while flying. Herons have a nice and clean flight unlike most of the Ardedians. These carnivorous birds prefer to stay or perch on a higher place to rest. Their bill shapes and thicknesses differ among species. The plumage is soft and has many colours including white, grey, brownish, and bluish.

What is the difference between Egrets and Herons?

• Both egrets and herons are medium to large size birds, but the largest species are among herons, more often.

• Egrets are commonly pure white in colour, but herons exhibit various colours.

• Egrets have significantly black legs and yellow beak, which is not very common among herons.

• Herons prefer to perch on a higher place during resting, while egrets stand on the shallow water more often than not.

• Diversity is higher among herons compared to egrets.

• Herons have a nice and clean flight, but egrets do not.

• Herons do not shake their limbs during flight, but egrets do shake their legs while flying.

  • William Maass

    I’m guessing then that near Sarasota Florida, thatvthe beggar in the yard that only wants meat is a white egret. He is large but there is also a smaller one. I’m not good at guessing height. He has black legs and a yellow beak. He has plummage with some long extensions like the visiting night heron does. He won’t eat day old shrimp heads but loves fried chicken skin, steak fat, and the anole lizards and snakes he finds in the yard. He will chase away the night heron if it comes in the yard while he is here.