great egret-ardea alba

Egret

Great egret (Ardea alba)
Egrets are birds from the genera Egretta or Ardea, which include herons as well. The distinction between herons and egrets is vague, depending more on appearance than biology. Many types of egret inhabit the Everglades, including the snowy egret, cattle egret, reddish egret and the common or great egret.

Habitat

Egrets are found in temperate and marshy regions, and are known for nesting in colonies. These colonies commonly inhabit marshes, lakes, humid forests and other wetland environments. They build large nests in trees and bushes or on the ground.

Size & Appearance

Most egrets have white or buff colored plumage and grow lengthy distinctive, fine plumes for mating seasons. They are long-legged wading birds with long necks, slender bodies and dagger like bills. Egrets’ tails are so short that they appear to be without any. They often hold their long necks in an “S” shape, with their head pulled between the shoulders – even in flight.

Diet

As wading birds, most egrets’ diets consist of small fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals and crustaceans in shallow waters.

Fun Facts

  • Before their legal protection, these birds were brought to the brink of extinction by 19th century hunters after their valuable plumage for use in women’s hats.
  • The great egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in America.
  • The oldest known egret was 22 years, 10 months old.
  • The name “egret” was derived from the French word “aigrette” – meaning “silver heron” or “brush.”
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