The Great Egret
The great egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret or large egret, is a large, widely distributed egret, with four subspecies found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe. It is perhaps the most abundant heron on Avery Island. The great egret is easily distinguished from all other similar birds in our area by its large size, bright yellow beak, and all-black legs and feet.
This species is sometimes confused with the great white heron of southern Florida and the Caribbean, which is a white form of the great blue heron. When breeding, great egrets develop delicate lacey plumes. Because of this it was once hunted nearly to extinction. Its nesting season in Bird City coincides with that of the snowy egret.
Great egrets are partially migratory, retreating from northern areas before winter and moving to warmer southern regions. Because of its wide distribution in North America, great egrets can be found in all types of aquatic habitats. In 1953 the great egret was chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society.
All photos by Pam McIlhenny