Description: The Great Egret is the largest “white” egret commonly found in most of America. The rare Great White Heron, a morph of the Great Blue Heron, is larger than the Great Egret, but only found in extreme south Florida.
The Great Egret measures about 36 inches in length. It is entirely white with a long, sharp white bill, a long S-shaped neck, and long, black legs. During breeding season, adult Great Herons grow aigrettes (long, wispy feathers) on the throat, wings, and back. It was for these special feathers that the Great Egret was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900′s. Males and females look alike.
Diet: Frogs, snails, crayfish, snakes, crustaceans, fish. Great Egrets are often observed feeding by themselves along roadsides, on golf courses or even in backyards and lawns.
Range: The Great Egret breeds throughout much of the eastern United States. Highest breeding densities occur along the Atlantic coast (north to southern Maine), in Florida, and along the Gulf coast. The Great Egret, however, may breed as far north as Wisconsin and Minnesota, and non-breeding birds may show up anywhere in America during summer and in migration. The Great Egret also breeds in parts of California and Oregon, throughout the Caribbean islands and along the coasts of Mexico. Many of these birds will migrate to South America for the winter.
Habitat: Marshes, swamps, lagoons, tidal flats, canals, fields, flood plains.
Status: Today, populations of Great Egrets have recovered from the early 1900′s, when the birds were hunted to the brink of extinction for plumes. Today, the Great Egret is once again common, but numbers are subject to decline due to habitat loss.
Great Egret Video (eating a snake)