Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Common; a recent immigrant from the Old World, range is rapidly expanding.
HABITAT: Frequents a great variety of habitats including pastureland, freshwater and salt marshes, fallow and plowed fields, orchards, citrus groves, road shoulders and median strips, vacant lots, lawns, and other open grassy areas. Least shy and least aquatic of North American herons; usually found in close association with large hoofed mammals, particularly cattle, and often perching on their backs.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands for nesting.
NEST: Nests colonially, often with other herons and ibises, in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, on islands, in willows and tamarisks along watercourses, occasionally in cypress swamps with a lower growth of buttonbush, or in scrub oaks in marshlands. Also nests in redcedar, red maple, and in pines. Usually builds nests at heights of 5 to 12 feet, up to 30 feet in heronries.
FOOD: Usually feeds in dry or moist open pastures among livestock, capturing insects and other prey disturbed as cattle walk and graze. May glean ticks or bugs off cattle. Consumes grasshoppers, leopard and cricket frogs, spiders, and some toads.
REFERENCES: Palmer 1962, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980.