As you’re here right now, you may have already seen tall, long-legged great blue herons. You’ll be surprised to know that there are some similar birds to these wading birds, which may confuse you to identify the right bird species.
That’s why you need the appropriate reply to this query, “which birds look like herons?” Great Blue Heron look-alike birds are sandhill cranes, great egrets, American white ibises, roseate spoonbills, white storks, brown pelicans, reddish egrets, American bitterns, and some heron species, including grey herons and tricolored herons.
Do you want to learn some similar species to crane birds? I have recently written an article on sandhill crane look-alike birds. We suggest you take a look at that article right now. Or, you can keep reading this one until the end.
Birds That Look Similar to Great Blue Herons
01. Sandhill Crane
Sandhill cranes are one of the most common wading birds in North America. These birds are mostly available in ponds, lakes, agricultural fields, shallow wetlands, and open grasslands. There are two types of sandhill cranes: lesser sandhill cranes and greater sandhill cranes.
- Sandhill cranes are grey overall with some tan and whitish feathers.
- They have heavy bodies, relatively small heads, and S-curved necks.
- They have slightly white throats and broad wings with a bit dark wingtips.
- Adult sandhill cranes have a red patch on the head and around the eyes.
- Their legs and bills are long, black.
Sandhill cranes look like great blue herons from afar. Both species are grey overall and a little white area on the face and throat. Besides, both have long legs and pointed bills (the bills of great blue heron are larger. They also look similar for the S-curved neck.
Sandhill cranes are usually larger than great blue herons. These birds have shorter, black bills, while the bills of great blue herons are longer and yellow. In addition, sandhill cranes have red patches on the crown and around the eyes.
02. Great Egret
Great egrets, also known as great white egrets or large egrets, are mostly out there in both saltwater and freshwater regions of the United States and Canada, along with southern Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. Riverbanks, wetlands, lakes, and ponds are their favorite places.
- Great egrets are white overall with some shaggy feathers.
- They have long, S-curved necks like most other wading birds.
- They have thoroughly dark black legs and feet.
- Their bills are long, yellowish-orange, and dagger-like.
- Long feathery plumes can be seen on the backs of breeding adults.
Egrets are kind of herons but come in small sizes. When it comes to great egrets, these birds have long, yellow bills, just like great blue herons. Besides, you’ll be able to find similarities in overall body structures, particularly S-curved necks, long legs, and rounded eyes.
In appearance, great egrets are smaller than great blue herons. Also, great egrets have long, black legs and feet, while the legs and feet of great blue herons are long, yellow. Adult great blue herons have head plumes that you won’t see in great egrets.
03. American White Ibis
Like many other wading birds, American white ibises are out there in the tropical regions of North America. These birds usually breed in the coasts of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast, and some Central American territories. They’re also found in coastal estuaries, flooded pastures, mangroves, and mudflats.
- American white ibises are white overall.
- They have long, brilliant reddish-pink legs and bills slightly curved downward.
- They have a bare patch of red skin around the eyes.
- In flight, their distinctive black wingtips are visible.
- Their eyes are rounded and pale blue.
American white ibises have great blue heron-like body structures. These birds also have long bills, rounded eyes, S-Curved necks, and long legs, just like great blue herons. Regardless of the plumage, both birds look pretty similar from afar.
In terms of size, American white ibises are smaller. While American white ibises are white overall, great blue herons come up with greyish-blue plumage. The bills of American white ibises are curved downward, but great blue herons have straight bills.
04. Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate spoonbills are usually found in the southern United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. These wading birds are mostly out there in many forested swamps, wetlands, mangroves, and roadside ditches.
- Roseate spoonbills mostly appear rosy pink and white on the neck.
- They have long, spoon-like bills.
- Like other wading birds, they have rounded eyes.
- Their necks are long and S-curved.
- The long legs have pinkish feathers in the upperparts.
Both roseate spoonbills and great blue herons are wading birds. They have a few similarities. At first, roseate spoonbills have long bills and legs, almost the same as great blue herons have. They also have rounded eyes, S-curved necks, and relatively small heads.
Roseate spoonbills have white and pink plumage, but great blue herons are greyish-blue overall. The bills of roseate spoonbills are long, spoon-shaped, while great blue herons have long, straight, pointed bills. You’ll also be able to find differences in their legs and feet.
05. White Stork
White storks are one of the wading birds found in the Iberian Peninsula, Central Europe, Northern Africa, and East Asia. These birds are mostly out there in open habitats, such as flooded river plains, pastures, wetlands, and meadows. For building nests, they prefer tall chimneys and old trees.
- White storks are mostly white with black plumage on the wings.
- They have long, pointed, pale red bills.
- Adults have long, shaggy breast feathers.
- Their legs are long, red, and the feet consist of multiple toes.
- The eyes are grey or dull-brown.
White storks look pretty similar to great blue herons. Both species have long, straight, pointed bills. They also have S-curved necks, relatively small heads, and long legs and feet. Besides, both wading birds have rounded dark eyes.
When standing, white storks are much smaller than great blue herons. While great blue herons are greyish-blue overall, white storks have white plumage with some black tail feathers. In addition, these birds have some distinctive shaggy feathers on the throat.
06. Brown Pelican
Brown pelicans are mostly out there in the United States, the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, and Canada, particularly British Columbia. Apart from the official birds of Louisiana, these birds are recognized as the national birds of Barbados and Saint Kitts & Nevis.
- Brown pelicans are maroon-brown overall.
- They have white head feathers, maroon breasts, and a yellowish patch on the head.
- California breeding adults have red skin on the throat pouch.
- The bills are long, and the necks are long, S-curved.
- The wings are long, broad, and the legs appear maroon-brown with webbed feet.
Brown pelicans are wading birds but come up with a duck-like shape. These birds have S-curved necks, relatively small heads, and rounded eyes, almost the same as great blue herons have. When in flight, they look pretty similar to great blue herons.
When it comes to differences, brown pelicans have short legs and webbed feet, but the legs of great blue herons are long. Apart from that, great blue herons are greyish-blue overall, while brown pelicans have brown-maroon plumage. There is a distinctive difference in their bills.
07. Reddish Egret
Reddish egrets are usually available in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. In recent times, there are a few of them out there in the United States. You can find these birds in ponds, lakes, coastal lagoons, and mudflats.
- Reddish egrets are mostly dark-grey throughout the body.
- They have an S-curved reddish neck (nonbreeding adults have shaggy plumes).
- They have long, straight, black bills.
- Their legs and feet are long and bluish-black.
- Breeding adult reddish egrets appear a bit pinkish on the bill base.
Reddish egrets look pretty similar to great blue herons in S-curved necks, rounded eyes, relatively small heads, straight & pointed bills, and long legs. These birds also appear the same as great blue herons when flying high in the sky.
The most noticeable difference between these two species is their close appearance. Reddish egrets are mostly dark-grey with a reddish neck, but great blue herons have greyish-blue plumage. In terms of size, reddish egrets are smaller than great blue herons.
08. American Bittern
American bitterns are one of the wading birds in North America, which belong to the heron family. These birds breed in northern and central United States and Canada. Apart from North America, they’re found in the Caribbean and some parts of Central America.
- American bitterns are buffy, brown, and well-camouflaged.
- They have long, thick, S-curved necks with vertical brown stripes.
- They have shorter legs than other heron species.
- They have broad wings with pointed wingtips.
- Their bills are long, straight, dagger-like, and sharply pointed.
American bitterns and great blue herons belong to the same heron family, Ardeidae. These birds are medium-sized herons, featuring S-curved necks, relatively small heads, long legs, and straight & pointed bills, almost the same as great blue herons.
American bitterns are smaller than great blue herons. While these birds are brown, well-camouflaged, great blue herons have greyish-blue plumage. In other words, they look pretty different, although they belong to the same family.
09. Grey Heron
Grey herons are usually available in the temperate regions of Northern and Western Europe, Eastern Asia, and some parts of Africa. These birds prefer reservoirs, seashores, lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, ditches, and mountain tarns.
- Grey herons are ashy-grey above and greyish-white below.
- They have relatively small heads and S-curved necks.
- They have rounded and yellow eyes.
- Their bills are orangish-yellow with the greyish upperpart.
- The legs are long, brown with multiple-toed feet.
Grey herons are similar species to great blue herons. There are a lot of similarities between these two wading birds. In addition to the relatively small heads and S-curved necks, grey herons have look-alike body structures, mostly grey plumage, yellow eyes, and long legs.
While great blue herons have greyish-blue plumage, grey herons are ashy-grey and greyish white below. Besides, the bills of grey herons are not completely orangish-yellow like great blue herons. In terms of size, great blue herons are larger than grey herons.
10. Tricolored Heron
In the coastal areas of the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States, you may encounter a bunch of tricolored herons. These birds prefer to stay in lakes, ponds, canals, estuaries, marshes, ditches, mangroves, and lagoons.
- Tricolored herons look colorful with a mix of greyish-blue, purple, and lavender.
- They have distinctive down-neck stripes and a white breast.
- They have long, S-curved necks and relatively small heads.
- Their bills are long and dagger-like.
- Nonbreeding adults have long, yellowish legs.
Tricolored herons look pretty similar to great blue herons from distances. Since they belong to the same family, they have similar types of body structures. In addition, both species have S-curved necks, pointed bills, long legs, and rounded yellowish eyes.
While great blue herons are greyish-blue overall, tricolored herons come up with a mix of 3 colors: greyish-blue, purple, and lavender. Besides, grey herons have bright yellow legs, but the legs of great blue herons are orangish-red.
Now that you know the birds that look like herons, you can easily identify herons, egrets, cranes, pelicans, bitterns, ibises, and spoonbills. Egrets and other heron species look pretty similar to great blue herons, but all of them are smaller and come with distinctive plumage.
However, other birds, like American white ibises, roseate spoonbills, white storks, brown pelicans, and American bitterns, can easily be identified due to the distinctive structure of their bills. Brown pelicans have webbed feet like ducks, which you won’t find in other wading birds.