The Great Egret is a large heron with all-white plumage. Standing up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. The species is 80 to 104 cm (31 to 41 in) long with a wingspan of 131 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in). Body mass can range from 700 to 1,500 g. It is thus only slightly smaller than the Great Blue or Grey Heron. Apart from size, the Great Egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season. In breeding plumage, delicate ornamental feathers are borne on the back. Both sexes are identical in appearance; juveniles look like non-breeding adults.
Habitat and Distribution
The Great Egret is partially migratory, with northern hemisphere birds moving south from areas with colder winters. Distributed across most of the tropical and warmer temperate regions of the world, in southern Europe it is rather localized. In North America it is more widely distributed, and it is ubiquitous across the Sun Belt of the United States and in the Neotropics.
The Great Egret feeds in shallow water or drier habitats, feeding mainly on fish, frogs, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and insects, spearing them with its long, sharp bill most of the time by standing still.
It breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes with reed beds or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.
Calls and Songs
The Great Egret is not normally a vocal bird; at breeding colonies, however, it often gives a loud croaking cuk cuk cuk.