Reddish Egret

Possibly some of the most conspicuously beautiful herons, Reddish Egrets are long-legged birds that are known for their vivid rusty hues. Like most herons, they are known for their glorious stances and their slender silhouettes. They are extremely active foragers that can often be observed running, jumping, and spinning as they pursue their prey.

About Reddish Egrets

These long-legged and long-necked birds are found throughout the coastal regions of the southern United States and Mexico, with most of their populations residing by the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. They are waders and can be seen running across barren, shallow waters as they forage. They are known to come in two varieties, one in the well-known dark variety and the other in a lighter, white plumage. These enigmatic birds are easily some of North America’s least studied and least understood ardeids, owing to their rare occurrences and their gradual decline in populations since the 1800s. Despite nearly going extinct, their numbers have managed to recover significantly. However, it is still a bird of significant environmental concern.

The first step in preserving any sort of wildlife is always to raise awareness about them. By cultivating your curiosity towards these birds, their statuses as treasures of nature are once again given priority. Today, we want to be talking about Reddish Egrets in detail. We will be covering:

● Reddish Egret Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● Reddish Egret Size, Eating Behavior, Habitat
● Reddish Egret Range and Migration, Nesting


Reddish Egret Color Pattern

Reddish Egrets come in two distinct morphs: dark-morphs and white-morphs. While both sexes look similar to each other in their plumages, the two morphs are distinct from each other in appearance. Dark-morph adults are a neutral gray overall, with chestnut to cinnamon head and neck. Their crown, nape, neck, and upper breast are marked with lace-shaped plumes that stand out, with the feathers at the very top of their wing donning a long and filamentous appearance during the breeding season. Their bills are also bicoloured; the base is pink while the remainder is black. The back and the sides of their legs are a shade of blue while the front of their legs is black, with the legs fading to a lighter blackish after they nest. While there are no radical changes in their breeding and non-breeding appearances,
they are relatively duller. Dark-morph adults also have vivid white to yellow irises that deeply contrast with their bodies.

Juvenile dark-morphs are similar but are a dull medium gray to a grayish tan without extensive plumes. Their bill is completely blackish, but as they grow older the base begins to turn pink. In comparison to the dark-morph birds, white-morph birds are entirely white in their plumages but are similar to dark-morphs in other anatomical aspects. The white-morph population has been observed to be rarer than dark-morphs in most of their range, but they
have been to be the majority in the Bahamas. Birds of both morphs can intermate with each other and have offspring that inherits either of the two plumages, rather than a combination of both.

Description and Identification

Dark-morph Adults are relatively very easy to identify with the naked eye. These birds are rarely ever seen away from the coast and stand out as they run through the shallow waters. The cinnamon-colored plumes also give these birds away. They have long beaks and gray feathers that make them rather distinct among other heron species, and extremely conspicuous in coastal areas due to the lack of similar-looking birds in their surroundings.

White-morph adults are harder to identify in comparison, but one can find identify them on the basis of the long, filamentous feathers coating their head and their markedly pointed white wings. The pink-based bill is common to adults of both morphs and is another marker to recognize them. Their long legs and their distinct gait also make them unmistakable to observers in their surroundings.

Reddish Egret Song

Reddish Egrets do not have a wide repertoire of sounds and have generally been observed to mostly remain silent. Their vocalizations are poorly studied but have shown that their most common call is a deep, throaty “awwwwwwh, AWWh-uhh, a wwh-UHHH, awwww-UNH, awwww-UNH-UNH, AWW-unh, or even a aa-gua”. These calls are most commonly heard by the adults on their foraging grounds as they depart their colonies after nesting. Sometimes, a
soft “awwh” calls can be heard during these departures and possibly during courtship rituals. Some researchers have noted that pairs may make “chicken-like” noises during courtship. Other sounds that they make include an aggressive “raah, crog-crog, and arg”.

Nestlings are capable of even fewer vocalizations, with their primary observed call being the food-begging call. Their calls can be rendered as a week, scratchy hee-hee-hee that is given from the first day after hatching. As they grow older, the begging calls become stronger, deeper, and scratchier than other species in their family.

Reddish Egret Size

These birds are around medium to large Herons with a body length of around 27.6-31.5 inches and a wingspan of 45.3-46.5 inches. They have long, curved necks that stand out along with their long beaks. They have lance-shaped broad, pointed wings, and long legs that aid them in running at high speeds as they wade in shallow waters. These herons
generally weigh around 24.7-30 ounces, with both sexes being relatively similar to each other in both build and weight. These proportions make them larger than other members of the Egretta family, but smaller than Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets.

Reddish Egret Behavior

Reddish Egrets have been observed to walk with specific and deliberate steps while maintaining an upright posture. When they run, their bodies are inclined forward with their heads either retracted or extended. As they run, they often use their wings for balance and maneuverability. Their flights are composed of strong and rapid wingbeats during long flights, with their head and neck retracted. On short flights and in displays, their head and neck might be extended. It has been described as a graceful and direct flight that appears to be lighter and more relaxed than other herons. Their head and neck typically remain retracted unless there is an event that significantly alarms them.

Their social interactions are extremely understudied, but there are a few observations that give us a better understanding of them. Males can get aggressive with each other during the breeding season, especially during the start of pair formation. They are also particularly aggressive when defending their feeding territories and their nest sites. Aggressive encounters generally involve bill-jabbing at nearby herons. Adults may also attack young ones from neighboring nests when they wander into different nest territories, while siblings within the same nest may be aggressive to each other for unknown reasons.

Like other aspects of their lifestyles, the pair bonds are also poorly understood. Pairs appear to be monogamous, but there have been cases where the paternity of a brood was found to be varied. Since it has been noticed that some males help with the nest building while others do not, it can be assumed that the strength of the pair bond depends highly on whether these birds migrate short distances during the winter or not.

Reddish Egret Diet

Reddish Egrets are primarily piscivores, meaning that their diets are mainly composed of various fish. Most of their diet includes small fish like minnows, mullet, and killifish. Since these birds rarely ever leave the coast and forage from shallow waters exclusively, their prey is restricted to the marine life that is found in those waters. They also consume frogs, tadpoles, and crustaceans. If food sources are scarce, they may eat aquatic insects as well.

Reddish Egret Habitat

The habitats of these Herons are restricted to coastal tidal flats, salt marshes, shores, and lagoons. They do most of their feeding in the calm and shallow waters along the coast, protected bays, and estuaries. Populations that reside in the United States mostly nest in the red mangrove swamps in Florida and on arid coastal islands that are covered with a thorny brush in Texas.

Range and Migration

Reddish Egrets are mostly permanent residents of their habitats in Central America, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast of the United States, and Mexico. Since a majority of their range is restricted to warm and humid climates, they rarely move until it is time for the dispersal of the nests, following which they travel short distances north of their breeding sites. However, some birds in Texas may move south during the winter due to harsher climatic conditions than what they have evolved for. When these birds wander northwards, they tend to stick to the coasts of the Gulf and the southern Atlantic coasts, very rarely moving inland. As a result, birds from western Mexico may occasionally wander north into the southern parts of California.

Reddish Egret Lifecycle

After copulation, females have their only brood of the season. Each brood has a clutch size of 3-6 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for around 25-26 days. The young may leave their nests at around 4 weeks and begin to wander about the island but are not able to fly until 6-7 weeks. Their age of complete independence is not known but it is presumably soon after they gain their first flight.


Breeding times are varied among the birds throughout their range. Birds in Texas typically breed during the spring, whereas birds in Florida breed mainly during the winter or in early spring. Males perform display rituals to attract the attention of the females, and if successful, they mate. After mating, both sexes engage themselves in the construction of the nest. The nest site is located on the ground in Texas but is found to be 3-15 feet above the water in the mangroves found in Florida. The nest itself is a simple platform that is made of sticks and grass.

Anatomy of a Reddish Egret

Reddish Egrets are medium to large herons with long legs and long necks. They have long, broad, pointed wings that are lance-shaped in form. They come in two varieties of plumages: a dark-morph and a white-morph. Dark-morphs are colored with shades of gray on their wings and chestnut hues on their necks and heads. On the other hand, white morphs are entirely white in plumage. Both morphs do not differ in any other feature and have pink-based bills with black on the tip and white to yellow irises. Their legs are dark gray.

Final Thoughts

These obscure birds are as fascinating as they are secretive. Due to the elusive nature of the birds, there is little information on their population trends and numbers. Despite their numbers have improved since the beginning of the 20th century, their population seems to be on a steady decline once again. The American Waterbird Conservation Plan rates the species a 15 out of 20 and categorizes them as a Species of Moderate Concern.

These birds are spectacular wonders of nature, and it is of dire concern for each and every citizen to remember that in order to preserve their numbers so that future generations can also appreciate them. For now, if you ever happen to be in regions around their range, keep your eye out for graceful movements at the shallow waters of their range and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of either of their two morphs!


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Reddish Egrets

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Reddish Egrets are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Reddish Egret Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Reddish Egret. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Reddish Egrets

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses For Reddish Egrets

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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