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Great Egret Ardea alba


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Great Egret, breeding plumage
credit: Calibas/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Ardeidae, Herons, Egrets, Bitterns view all from this family

Description ADULT Has pure white plumage; during breeding season, long back plumes trail beyond tail. At all times, legs are dark and bill is yellow. Lores are yellow for much of year but turns bluish green in breeding season. juvenile Similar to nonbreeding adult.

Dimensions Length: 35-41" (89-104 cm); Wngspn: 4' 7" (1.4 m)

Habitat Much reduced (by persecution and habitat loss) compared to, say, a century ago. Never_theless, still relatively common in wetland habitats (mainly freshwater and brackish). Resident year-round in coastal districts within its range (except in parts of West Coast), numbers boosted in winter by birds abandoning inland sites occupied from spring to fall.

Observation Tips So large and conspicuous that you should have no difficulty finding it; size and bill and leg color help separate it from superficially similar smaller species, and from white morph Great Blue Heron.

Range Texas, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, New England, Northwest, Southeast, Florida, Plains, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, California

Voice Mainly silent.

Discussion A stately, pure white, heron-like bird, appreciably larger than Snowy Egret; size and color alone are often enough to allow certain identification. Visitors to south Florida could confuse it with white morph of Great Blue Heron. Great Egret uses its daggerlike bill to good effect when capturing prey, which includes fish and the occasional aquatic mammal or bird. Sexes are similar and outside breeding season adults and immatures are not easily separable.