It is a smallish elegant heron with entirely white plumage, dark bill, black legs, and yellow feet. This bird occurs in various shallow water bodies or almost any habitat where small fish are present. Singles or loosely-structured groups are observed, which roost and communally. As a successful colonist, the species has a wide range and can be seen in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australia, and Africa.
Read further to know more about the Little Egret.
What is a Little Egret?
Little(Egretta garzetta) is a small heron species belonging to the Ardeidae family. It is a snow-white bird that feeds in shallow waters, consuming a wide range of small creatures. The bird species is a colonial breeder, often alongside other waterbird species.
Its seven levels of classification are as follows:
Species: E. garzetta
Little Egret Physical Description
Little Egret is a small and striking member of the heron family, growing from 22 to 26 inches or 55 to 65 centimeters, weighing 350 to 550 grams, with a wingspan of 35 to 42 centimeters. It has entirely white plumage, with slightly-long neck, dark, slender bills, and blackish legs with yellow feet.
Adults’ faces become grayish-blue while lores turn reddish during the breeding season. Two white long fine feathers occur on the rear crown, starting from the nape until the middle of the neck. Long feathers known as “aigrettes” are also present on the upper breast and scapular feathers. The lower mandible’s base turns grayish while yellow feet turn bright orange to reddish in the same period.
In their winter plumage, the birds lack the nape feathers and the “aigrettes.” Lores are grayish while the feet are yellow. Males and females look similar. Juvenile or immature birds sport the adult’s winter plumage but with a paler bill, legs, and greenish-gray feet.
Where can they be spotted?
Little Egrets occur in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australia, and Africa. They occur in a wide range of wetland habitats from fresh, brackish, to shallow saltwater, such as lakes, rice fields, canals, ponds, lagoons, marshes, flooded lands rivers. On coastal locations, these birds thrive in mudflats, estuaries, reefs, swamps, and mangrove areas.
Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Little Egret
Little Egrets feed primarily on fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, mollusks, spiders, worms, and even small birds. During the day, they forage using a variety of techniques, such as stirring mud or sand with one foot to disturb the prey and jabbing it with its pointed bill once spotted. However, the more common strategy the species employs is to stand motionless, waiting for any food item to come near, and ambushing the prey.
They can also be seen following cattle in the field, and catching the insects disturbed by the grazers. Prey are often swallowed whole. Bones, keratin, feathers, and other indigestible and harder parts will be regurgitated as pellets.
Little Egrets are highly gregarious birds and often occur in small flocks. However, they may ward off other individuals who would come too near to their preferred feeding site, especially when food is somewhat scarce. These birds aggregate at communal roost alongside other heron species on branches over the water.
During the breeding season, males arrive first in the breeding area and collect materials for the nest. Once the females come, they do double-duty, attempting to attract a female while defending the nest site from other male little egrets. Courtship displays are characterized by bill-clappering or stretching wherein the male displays its long feathers, by raising its head, neck, and bill upwards.
Little Egrets are monogamous, and colonial nesters. The nest is made of sticks and placed on shrubs, trees, bamboo groves, or reed beds. In certain parts of its range, these birds construct their nests on cliffs.
The female little egret will lay a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs, which both sexes will incubate for about 21 to 25 days. Both parents will also tend to the chicks after hatching. Soon enough, at approximately three weeks, the broods will begin exploring around the nest and climbing branches. After 40 to 45 days, they will fledge and can already follow the adult little egrets to learn how to forage for food.
Little Egrets are not globally threatened at the given time. However, these birds were hunted heavily and were killed for feather trade during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. In the 1950s, their number started to increase again, thanks to the conservation laws enacted to protect the species and their habitats. Today, their population size has recovered, and they are classified as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:
BOTSWANA BIRDS | SOUTH AFRICA BIRDS
NAMIBIA BIRDS | ZAMBIA BIRDS | ZIMBABWE BIRDS