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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), and 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.  They have an unusual ritual when one bird takes over for another on the nest, sometimes passing a stick or other piece of vegetation between themselves when switching spots. When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge after about 4 weeks.

Song:

Generally silent, except on their breeding grounds. There they have give some harsh and grating calls.

1Click here to hear the croaking call of a Snowy Egret at a nesting site

2Click here to hear the harsh calls of a Snowy Egret taking flight

Migration:

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

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Snowy Egret sightings

Similar Species:

Potentially confused with other white egret (and heron) species. See this page of identification tips for more detailed differences between species.

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) BirdWeb - Snowy Egret

2) Audubon Guide - 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.

Audio File Credits:

1Paul Marvin. Recorded in San Diego County, California on June 16th, 2019. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Jayrson Araujo de Oliveira. Recorded in Chacara Jayrson, Brazil on September 23rd, 2018. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

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.

Additional Snowy Egret Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Snowy Egret 1 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 2 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 3 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 4 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 5 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 6 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 7 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 8 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 9 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 10 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 11 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 12 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 13 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 14 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 15 - Egretta thulaSnowy Egret 16 - Egretta thulaGreat and Snowy Egrets 1 - Egretta thula and Ardea albaGreat and Snowy Egrets 2 - Egretta thula and Ardea albaGreat and Snowy Egrets 3 - Egretta thula and Ardea albaGreat and Snowy Egrets 4 - Egretta thula and Ardea alba