Great (or Common) Egret

So this is a bird that I managed to see at the Birding and Nature Center in South Padre Island, Texas and is also one that I usually see migrating through Stillwater up at Boomer Lake.

Great (or Common) Egrets at the Birding and Nature Center, South Padre Island TX

Great (or Common) Egrets sitting in the trees at Boomer Lake, Stillwater OK

When they migrate through, it will start with you seeing just one or two, and then within a week or so you will be seeing at least half a dozen gather before making their way south (for the winter) or north (for the summer).

These birds are easy to identify–they’re a tall all-white bird (slightly shorter than the Great Blue Heron), with a yellow-orange beak and black legs.

Great (or Common) Egret sitting on driftwood in Boomer Lake

During the breeding season a patch of skin on their face will turn neon green, and long plumes will grow from their back.

In flight–they fly with their neck tucked in and their legs straight behind them.

Great (common) Egret in flight.

Geographically, they can be found throughout most of the lower forty-eight states; though there are a few exceptions where they are rarely seen such as in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Maine, and parts of various other states. States mentioned as rare sightings are due to the fact that it has been noticed that the egret has been pushing its breeding range further north.

Great (or common) Egret range map. Map (c) Birds of the world

Habitat wise–they’re like any other heron or egret and they prefer marshes, ponds, lake shores, lagoons, and mudflats.

The Great Egret hunts mainly fish, but will also eat various crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, snakes, and insects.

Great Egret peering into the early morning water at Boomer Lake

The egret will also occasionally hover over the water and dip for fish.

Egrets dipping into the water for fish.

They have also been seen in open fields catching grasshoppers and small rodents occasionally in addition to occasionally going after small birds as well.

The Great Egret is the symbol for the National Audubon Society.

Not all nestlings survive each year–the larger nestlings are often more aggressive towards their smaller siblings and frequently kill them–behavior known as siblicide.

Due to the long plumes that the egret sports during the mating season–they were almost driven to extinction in the 1800s as the plumes of egrets and herons were wanted for adornments for hats.

Photography goal: get a picture of the Great Egret during the breeding season, and a photograph of a young egret as well.

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