Crane vs. Heron: The Differences In Their Habitat, Diet, And More!

Deepthi Reddy
Jan 26, 2023 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
Crane vs. Heron; let's explore the differences.

Wading birds have always been a fascinating subject to discover.

These fascinating birds with long necks are frequent visitors to water sources in search of food. These species of birds can be carnivorous or savor both animal and plant matter as food.

Cranes can be classified into 15 species placing them under three genera. Some prominent species are the sandhill crane, whooping crane, sarus crane, and red-crowned crane.

Observing the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List may find a few species under the Endangered category. A few family species to highlight here would be the whooping crane, red-crowned crane, and gray crowned crane. Cranes can be found soaring great heights, going as high as 16,000–26,000 ft (4,900–8,000 m).

There are around 64 species of herons, and they are popular freshwater wading birds. These species of birds have various other names, such as bitterns and also egrets.

So do not mistake the name of egrets to be a different bird from a heron. The egrets (white birds) are simply herons that possess white plumage.

Some popular species of herons would include great blue herons, great white heron, a green heron, egret varieties like the little egret, Chinese egret, Australasian Bittern, etc. It is unfortunate to note that five of these heron species have become Extinct; one is Critically Endangered (white-bellied heron), five are Endangered (Madagascar heron, white-eared night-heron, great white heron, etc.)

We have contoured some more fun articles on our Kidadl website for you to explore. Please check the exciting content about egret vs. heron and the typical bird respiratory system that will give wings to your thoughts.

Difference Between Crane And Heron

One of the significant ways to differentiate between cranes and herons would be by their flying pattern. Have you seen these birds spread their wings and fly? So if you see a bird flying with an S-like curvature to its neck, you are witnessing a crane in flight.

If you look at a bird stretching its neck and flying, you are peering at a heron. Fascinating and rare information on necks, is it? Now, let us understand the difference between herons and cranes in some detail.

If we draw a comparison between the body features of cranes against herons and egrets, the cranes tend to have beaks that are shorter in size. Another distinction between quoting will be their social behavior.

Cranes can be found in open spaces in large groups, but herons prefer their solitude more. Great blue herons or great egrets can often be seen at ponds in the cities of North America. But the exception to this rule of solitude are the Cattle egrets, frequent visitors to the open fields and marshes.

Another evident difference is the body of the crane being white and the black face. The cranes also have black legs.

Herons, however, we can see them in various colors. If you observe the feathers on the great blue herons, you will conclude they have a messy appearance against the most common cranes native to North America, the sandhill cranes.

The short bird amongst the two species is the great egret if you put together the sandhill cranes and the Great egret.

How can you tell the difference between a Heron and a Crane?

For a novice bird watcher, both birds, herons, and cranes may look very similar. So how to ensure we identify these birds appropriately? Let us find out now.

The way they fish their food is one differentiator for these bird species. Cranes utilize the bill as a tool to hunt for their prey, whereas if you see the great blue herons, they are known to chase their prey.

Great blue herons are one of the most efficient hunters of a fish. Cranes can be classified as opportunistic omnivores. On the other hand, quoting the great egrets as an example, one can say that they are staunch carnivores.

Heron vs. Crane Who Would Win

Now that we have listed down so many differences between the herons and the family of cranes let's understand who is mightier. Aren't you curious to know too?

The cranes are large-sized birds, whereas herons are medium-sized avians. The shape of their bodies may look similar.

However, the long legs and necks are the only similar aspect in them. The call of these birds is nothing near similar, as the crane gives a loud rattle-like sound, whereas the call of a heron may sound more like a croak.

So the next time a little blue heron croaks, you are sure to make it out against a sandhill crane. With their unique attributes, either of the bird species stands out and can make a win situation.

Difference Between A Crane, Heron, Egret, And Stork

Often we hear the names of a tall crane, tall heron, stork, and an egret used as a similar species to one another. But let us head into the fact discovery.

Cranes, storks, and herons are part of different families in the animal kingdom. Egrets and the herons are part of the same family hence are considered to be technically the same clan.

Storks can be regarded as different as they are great at migration as compared to cranes and herons. The stork wing is quite broad in shape, an adaptation to help them fly greater distances.

The storks have poor vocal glands, and the sound they can make is when each of their bills snaps. So we can conclude by saying that cranes, storks, and herons are different from one another.

Heron Vs. Crane Wingspan

Witnessing these bird species in flight with their necks in unique positions makes us wonder, what will be the wingspan of these waterfowls? Let us identify now.

The sandhill crane has a wingspan that measures three to four feet (0.9 to 1.2 m). The Snowy egret has a wingspan of 41 in (104.4 cm).

The tallest bird that can fly, the Sarus crane, has a wingspan with a measure of 94 in (240 cm). The largest of the herons, Goliath herons, have a wingspan of 6 feet 1 inch–7 feet 7 inches (185–230 cm).

So the black wing feathers of a tall crane or a tall heron assist them in their flight speed. During a flight, the wings of cranes rise above their body, but for the herons, the wing stays parallel to their body.

Heron Vs. Crane Habitat

Do you know where to spot a little blue heron or a sandhill crane? Do you know where the great egrets choose their abode? Are they native to the South or North America? Let us clarify these gray areas for you.

These birds choose marshes as their habitat. Herons are pretty predominant in the tropical regions; the cranes, on the other hand, inhabit the green grasslands and swampy areas. The breeding season may also affect their location of stay.

A sandhill crane during the breeding time chooses to switch to more of the south. The nests of these birds differ too. The herons build nests on trees and open land unaccompanied, whereas the cranes tend to build their nests amongst their clan, which tends to flock away from trees.

Conservation Of Heron Vs. Crane

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has placed many species of heron and crane under the endangered category. So our next legs of discussions move towards the conservation of these birds species. Let us learn more.

These birds are legally protected in many countries. Captive breeding techniques are underway to increase the population trend of these waterfowls. The legislation can pass bills that support the research and observation of Endangered species. Inardent cutting of trees is placed under check to protect the habitats of these species.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for crane vs. heron, then why not take a look at what do herons eat or Night Heron Facts.

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah Gulbargawala picture

Amatullah GulbargawalaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah is a passionate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from Ashoka College of Education. With a keen interest in literature, she has excelled in elocution competitions and is an accomplished writer. She has completed courses like "History of English Language and Literature", "Introduction to Western Political Thought and Theory", and "Development of Soft Skills and Personality". In her free time, Amatullah enjoys reading books and writing poetry.

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