Photo Credit: Terry Hartley
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Egretta thula
OTHER NAMES: Lesser egret, little egret, little snowy, little white egret, little white heron.
DESCRIPTION: The snowy egret, Egretta thula, is a medium sized, slender and all white heron with a long thin neck, dark bill, and long black legs with yellow feet. Smaller than the great egret (Casmerodius albus), the snowy egret measures 22 – 26 inches, 3 foot 2 inches tall, has a wing span of 39 inches and weighs 13 ounces. Once hunted exclusively for their delicate plumes, it is one of the daintiest and truly exquisite marsh birds. When in breeding plumage, elegant, lacey, pure white, waving nuptial plumes adorn the head, neck and back.
DISTRIBUTION: Snowy egrets inhabit and nest in much of the coastal regions from Maine south to Florida, across the Gulf Coast to Texas, and California. They also nest in inland areas including southeast Idaho, Colorado, central Oklahoma, west Texas, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Summer nesting habitat also includes central and South America.
They overwinter in coastal areas from South Carolina to the Texas Gulf Coast, California, and inland areas in the southwest including southern Arizona, and much of central and South America.
HABITAT: Commonly found in fresh, brackish and salt water along marshes, ponds, mangrove swamps and occasionally found in dry fields.
FEEDING HABITS: The snowy egret eats small fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, shrimp, fiddler crabs, crayfish, grasshoppers, cut worms, and other aquatic insects. Food is consumed by stabbing its prey with its slender bill. They use one foot to stir up the bottom of shallow ponds or marsh areas to scare prey into view or by agilely moving through shallow water with its wings partly raised, hunting down its prey.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: A highly social, colonial nester that builds its nests in trees and shrubs along freshwater lakes, ponds or marshes. Females lay three to five pale blue-green eggs from January to July, usually April to May, that are incubated by both adults. The life history of the snowy egret is poorly known, however, it is thought that the adults incubate the eggs for about 18 days and young leave the nest at about 20 - 25 days.
Terres, J.T. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Page 498. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York, USA.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Page 52. 1987. Second Addition. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., USA
AUTHOR: Ericha Nix, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, July 2006