Egrets are the largest of the white egrets found in the state. A very
widespread species, Great Egrets are found on every continent except Antarctica. After
playing a key role in it's recovery after nearly being exterminated by 1900, the
Audubon Society chose the Great Egret as its symbol. Note the long lacy
plumage in the breeding bird on the right, and the green lores of another
breeding bird in the photo on the bottom. Non breeding birds lack the lacy
plumage and green lores in front of the eyes.
Habitat: Sloughs, ponds, marshes, and
flooded pastures. Nests in thickets or trees, usually adjacent to water,
but occasionally further away from water.
Diet: Mostly fish. Also eats crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, snakes, and
aquatic insects. May chase grasshoppers in open fields.
Behavior: Forages by standing still or walking slowly, waiting for
prey to approach, and the stabbing it with a quick thrust of the bill.
While they primarily feed along wetlands and water features, they will
occasionally also feed in open fields and even follow cattle like
Nesting: Mid-June to July. They usually nest in
colonies, sometimes mixed with other wading birds, but they will also sometimes
build solitary nests. 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 6 or 7 weeks.
Song: Bold throaty croaking or
repeated cuk, cuk.
Migration: Winters in coastal areas and south
Conservation Status: Was nearly extinct by 1900 due to demand for it's plumes,
along with many of the egrets and herons. Thanks to early conservation
efforts by groups like the Audubon Society, they (and other egrets) have gradually recovered since.
Today the IUCN lists
the Great Egret as a species of "Least Concern".
Whatbird.com: Great Egret
Photo Information: April 25th, 2004 - Kingsbury
County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Great Egret photos.