Egretta thula
(Snowy Egret)


Order: Ciconiiformes
Order Description: Bitterns, Herons, Egrets,and Ibises
Family: Ardeidae
Family Description: Herons, Bitterns, and Egrets

Physical Description:
Size: 20-27" (51-69 cm). A medium-sized heron with snow-white body. Black bill and legs with yellow feet. Breeding Adults have long, filamentous plumesClick word for definition down back and tail. Flies with its neck tightly coiled.

Similar Species- Great Egret much taller, black legs and feet and yellow bill. Cattle Egret has yellow-to red-orange bill, thicker head.

Song:
A low croak heard in colony. Also a bubbling wulla-wulla-wulla.

Distribution:
Breeds from northern California, southern Idaho, Kansas, lower Mississippi Valley, and Gulf and Atlantic coasts, south through Mexico to South America. Winters from northern California, southwestern Arizona, Gulf Coast, and South Carolina, south through breeding range. Wanders irregularly outside usual range.

Habitat:
Found on marshes, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, lagoons, and shallow coastal habitats.

Diet:
Eats small fishes, frogs, lizards, snakes, crustaceans, worms, snails, and insects.

Ecology:
Nests under shrubs, or in trees and bushes, preferably on islands. Usually found in loose groups; frequently roostsClick word for definition communally, and nests in large colonies. Usually forages in shallow water, but may also graze in fields. Species is present in Idaho from mid-April to September. In past, Idaho reproduction has been depressed due to DDT and other pesticide contamination. Predators include gulls, crows, and magpies.

Reproduction:
Female lays eggs usually from April to May or June in northern range. Both sexes incubateClick word for definition 4-5 eggs in northern range, 2-4 in south (in Idaho study, clutchClick word for definition size averaged 3.7). Incubation lasts 18 days or longer. Young leave nest at 20-25 days; may first breed at 1 yr.

Conservation:
Element Code: ABNGA06030
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Findholt, S. 1984. Organochlorine residues, eggshell thickness, and reproductive success of snowy egrets nesting in Idaho. Condor 86:163-169.


Photo by R. Bennetts,© 2000
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.