How to Tell the Difference Between Heron and Crane

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The words heron and crane can be used interchangeably, but the difference between crane and heron is more than just a matter of semantics. There are also important differences in their habitats, feeding habits and mating rituals. Whether you’re a bird-watcher, hunter or just curious about these majestic creatures, it is worth taking the time to learn how to tell the difference between heron and crane.

The most obvious difference between heron and crane is that herons have longer neck than cranes. Herons often have their necks tucked in, but cranes keep their necks outstretched when flying. This can be hard to distinguish in flight, but it is easier when you are close enough to observe the details of their necks.

Beyond the Wetlands: A Visual Guide to Distinguishing Cranes and Herons

Another easy distinction between herons and cranes is that herons are solitary, whereas cranes tend to congregate in groups and have complex mating and territorial rituals. Herons and egrets are strict carnivores, spearing anything that moves (fish, frogs, etc) while cranes are omnivorous and feed on both animal and plant matter.

Herons are found all over the world, but they are most abundant in the United States, especially in Florida. Cranes, on the other hand, are primarily found in the tropics and have wide distributions globally. Some species, such as the Siberian crane and Whooping crane, are critically endangered. While Herons are relatively common near water bodies, it is more likely to find cranes in grasslands and fields.

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