Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

The Snowy Egret epitomizes the ‘active’ feeder. They use their bright yellow feet to disturb hidden prey into the open, where they then become vulnerable to attack. These birds are adaptable in their feeding strategies and some observers have reported them in the company of cormorants, exploiting the prey chased into the shallows by the diving cormorants. I have observed and photographed a pair of Snowy Egrets shadowing a Red-Breasted Merganser in the estuaries of South San Diego Bay, where they captured prey disturbed by the diver.

These showy waders range year round throughout most of South America, but in North America they are year-round residents on the mid-Atlantic coast and south along the gulf coast to Costa Rica. On the Pacific coast, they are resident in California along the coast and in the Central Valley. In the interior USA, some birds wintering as far south as Mexico migrate north to the Great Basin, the middle Rio Grande and lower Colorado River valleys, and the mid-West.

There lives in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia a similar-looking bird called the Little Egret. In the past few decades observers have documented the Little Egret as breeding in the Americas, so it promises to create some identity confusion in the years ahead.

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