Grey Heron & Great Egret

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Great White Egret

Ardea alba

  • Name also: Great Egret, Common Egret, Great White Heron
  • Latin synonym: Egretta alba
  • Family: Herons – Ardeidae
  • Appearance: Plumage totally white. Almost as large as Grey Heron, but more slender and longer-legged.
  • Size: Length 85–100 cm, wingspan 143–169 cm, weight 700–1,500 g.
  • Nest: Made of twigs. Located in a reed bed, or in a bush or tree (sometimes very high, usually overlooking water).
  • Breeding: 1–6 eggs laid May–June, incubated for 25–26 days. Fledglings learn to fly within 42–63 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds in colonies by large wetland lakes, preferably with extensive reed beds. Still rare in Finland, with tens of individuals sighted annually (first seen in Finland in 1966). Does not breed in Finland yet, but may soon become a new nesting species.
  • Migration: Winters around the Mediterranean.
  • Diet: Usually feeds in water, preying on fish, amphibians, snakes, insects and crustaceans. Also sometimes feeds on land, preying on insects, lizards, small birds and rodents.
  • Calls: Usually silent, though in flight sometimes a nasal “gyaa”.

Great White Egrets’ plumage is entirely white. Their legs and bill are black. They also have a yellow featherless patch between their beak and eyes. In the breeding season adults have elongated decorative plumes on their backs. Juveniles and birds in winter lack these plumes, their bills are more yellowish, and their legs are muddy brown. The plumes of egrets were used to decorate fancy hats in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when the birds were hunted so widely that they were threatened with extinction.

The similar Little Egret is somewhat smaller than the Great White Egret, flies with faster wingbeats, and has shorter legs with yellow toes.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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