The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.
Great Egrets are tall, long-legged wading birds with long, S-curved necks and long, dagger-like bills. In flight, the long neck is tucked in and the legs extend far beyond the tip of the short tail.
Great Egrets wade in shallow water (both fresh and salt) to hunt fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They typically stand still and watch for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Then, with startling speed, the egrets strike with a jab of their long neck and bill.
The all-white Snowy Egret is much smaller than a Great Egret, and has a more slender black bill and black legs with bright-yellow feet. Young Little Blue Herons are mostly white, but are much smaller than Great Egrets and have dusky wingtips.