Beak of the Week – Great Egret

Great Egret (Ardea Alda)

Family: Ardeidae

By Ryan McGinty, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon

The Great Egret is a tall white bird with long black legs, a long S-shaped neck, and a sharp yellow bill. Its diet consists of fish and other aquatic animals that it hunts by wading in shallow water waiting to ambush its unsuspecting prey. Once its target is within range, the Great Egret uses its long dagger-like bill to stab its prey. It can be found both in freshwater and saltwater, and nests in large groups of birds called rookeries.

While breeding, these birds grow long white plumes on their back to attract mates. They also perform courtship displays, which can involve stretching their neck, ducking their head, preening their wings, or even shaking twigs within their bill. In the late 19th century, most Great Egrets were killed off due to the high demand for their plumes. This crisis eventually led to the formation of the National Audubon Society and the outlaw of market hunting.

Great Egrets can be seen displaying now at the Rookery in Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary in High Island, Texas. Visitors can enjoy great views of the spectacle from the new Kathrine G. McGovern Canopy Walkway.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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