South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

Length: 22 to 26 inches Wingspan: 46 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Black legs with contrasting yellow feet, black bill, all white plumage

Snowy Egret - Egretta thulaThe elegant snowy egret was killed by the thousands in the 1800's for its long, lacy breeding plumage, which was used for women's hats and other clothing.  It has recovered both in range and numbers since that time.  Of the white egrets found in South Dakota, the Snowy Egret can be identified by its size (smaller than the Great Egret), it's yellow feet contrasting with black legs.  See the Identification Tips page for differentiating among the white Egrets and Herons in the state.

Habitat: Prefers large sloughs or marshes, sometimes edges of ponds or lakes.  

Diet: Varies, but includes fish, crustaceans, insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents, snails, and worms.

Behavior: Uses a variety of foraging techniques.  They will often actively wade through shallow waters, chasing prey that is startled by the movement.  They will also stand still in shallow water, waiting for prey to approach.   Snowy Egrets will also forage on dry land, usually in search of insects.

Nesting: June and July.  Breeds in colonies, typically mixed colonies with other wading bird species.  The nest is a platform of sticks built in a tree or tall shrub.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge after about 4 weeks.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Generally silent

Migration: Birds in the interior of the country migrate to U.S. coastal areas, Mexico, and Central America in the fall.

Similar Species: Cattle Egret, Great Egret, immature Little Blue Heron.  See Identification Tips for differentiating between these species.  They are also extremely similar to the Little Egret, an Old World counterpart to the Snowy Egret that is a rare vagrant to North America.

Conservation Status: Snowy Egreats are expanding range to the north and increasing population in recent decades.  Despite recent populatiosn increases, overall numbers are still far below historical levels.  However, populations are not in danger, and the IUCN lists the Snowy Egret as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Snowy Egret

2) eNature.com - Snowy Egret

3) Whatbird.com - Snowy Egret

Photo Information: June 23rd, 2005 - Near Chincoteague, Virginia - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Snowy Egret photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Snowy Egret - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant in the eastern half of the state, rare in the west.  Locally common summer resident in the northeast.