About Snowy Egrets
Snowy Egrets put even the most graceful herons to shame with their elegance. This slender beauty, with its black legs and yellow feet, has a total contrasting white plumage. The plumage is so white that we had no choice but to name it “Snowy” Egret. Their thin legs aren’t only useful for walking but play a vital role in their foraging habits.
During the breeding season, the plumes of Snowy Egrets turn into a curvy, filmy affair. Once, the fashion industry became so fascinated with it that it was sold for a scary amount of price, nearly placing the species in permanent danger of extinction. The conservationists of the twentieth century did their best to protect this species, owing to whom the numbers are still thriving and the shallow coastal wetlands still see Snowy Egrets regularly.
Today, we’ll learn about:
- Snowy Egret color patterns, songs, and size
- Snowy Egret behavior, habitat, and diet
- Snowy Egret lifecycle, nesting, and migration range
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Snowy Egrets Color Pattern
The color pattern of Snowy Egrets is obvious from the moment you learn their name. This medium-sized heron is white as the snow. The whiteness of their plumage especially makes them stand out in coastal areas. They have a black bill and equally long, black legs. Yet, their feet are yellow as is the start of their bill. Oddly enough, they have yellow rings beside their eyes too. This yellow surrounding their eyes make them look sharp, intelligent, and dangerous.
The immature Snowy Egrets don’t look any different from their parents in color patterns. However, their legs and the start of their bill happen to be greenish-yellow rather than bright yellow.
Description And Identification
If you live near the coastal areas, you have seen a snowy egret already. If you don’t and one of your birding lists happens to have the name of this species as something you want to see, you need to visit the coastal areas as soon as possible. Since they are pretty much active year-round in North and Central America, you don’t even need to wait for a particular season to go see them. However, if you want to see them in their full glory, you will want to wait until breeding season.
After all, during the breeding season, the plume of Snowy Egrets fluffs and blossoms. They have such white plumes that on the salt and fresh water, even under the deep blue sky, they stand out more than anything. Even when they live among mixed colonies of bird species, Snowy Egrets with their beautiful plumage would catch your eyes immediately. If they are on your birding list, you will want to take your binoculars and camera with you while searching for them. You want a memory of the moment when you spot one. There is a reason their plumes were so famous that the fashion industry got a bit overzealous. Thankfully, conservationists were around to save them, otherwise, we wouldn’t have been greeted with the beautiful site to date.
So, to identify them, you want to pay attention to the all-white plumage. Then, see if their bill and legs happen to be black. Once you are certain, check if they have a yellow splash on their face and if the feet happen to be yellow. If all these factors are accounted for, then yes, you are indeed looking at a Snowy Egret.
Another thing is the call of Snowy Egrets which you can only hear during the breeding season. They are usually quiet creatures and rarely make any noise. During nesting though, they will give out these raspy, nasal calls. If they are aggravated due to a threat, they will let out a squawk that will scare anyone. They will also make clicking noises with their bill if they are disturbed.
Otherwise, Snowy Egrets are easy to identify. There are not many bird species who happen to have this wonderful snow shade of white, especially not herons. Combined with their body shape, color pattern, and sound, it is a low possibility you will mistake another bird species with them.
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Snowy Egret Song
Snowy Egrets are quiet creatures for the most part unless they are on their breeding ground. Here, you can hear calls from them that sound either raspy or nasally. Sometimes, you hear squawks that are filled with aggression. When they are aggrieved and displaying it plainly, their bills make clicking noises. These loud noises should warn away anyone approaching.
Snowy Egret Size
For herons, Snowy Egrets is exactly the medium-sized you expect them to be. They have a small head attached to a long neck that flows into an oval-shaped body. Their legs are long and thin as is their bill. There is no curve to their bill though their neck has quite an S shape to it. Great Egret, as you can guess by name alone, still happens to be bigger than them. Yet, they are larger than Cattle Egret.
To give you a fair estimate of their size, Snowy Egrets would be about 56 to 66 cm in length. In weight, they are around 370 g. The expansion of their wings spans about 100 cm.
Snowy Egret Behavior
Snowy Egrets have an active foraging style. They will walk around shallow water or even run around on it. Sometimes, they will stand at a place and wait for their prey to approach them instead. Often, they use their feet to splash around the sediments into the shallow water. This sudden rain of sediments startles their prey. They take advantage of this moment and swoop down to catch them.
Sometimes, they will fly over water and then drop into the water to catch the prey they spotted moments ago. In open fields, their method of catching insects involves following cattle around as these animals are surrounded by them. Either way, they are an active species when it comes to foraging. They are not into waiting for a long period of time and since they can eat pretty much any kind of aquatic creature, they are not exactly short of food. Their long legs and sharp eyes give them advantages over their prey. They can observe their prey for a long period of time, as their future food is unaware. And then, at the right moment, they use their bill to attack them and feed on them.
What Snowy Egrets Eat
They have a healthy diet consisting of fish, crustaceans, and insects. The varied diet consists of frogs, snakes, crayfish, snails, worms, lizards, and even rodents. Basically, no one can accuse Snowy Egrets of having a gourmet taste. They would eat pretty much anything that can be considered edible. As long as the parents and their youngins can survive, they will eat whatever they manage to hunt down. Their flexibility when it comes to their food helps them survive for a long time.
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Where Snowy Egrets Live And Habitat
Snowy Egrets prefer shores, ponds, swamps, and marshes as their ideal habitat. Pretty much any kind of aquatic habitat is coveted by them which includes freshwater and saltwater areas. The sheltered bays of coastal areas especially are of use to them. If they happen to stay inland, their preference skews towards wetlands and extensive marshes.
Other times, they are seen foraging in drier fields. Their nesting seasons are spent in colonies, in mangroves, shrubs, and trees. Sometimes, they keep their nests on the ground or close to the marshes.
Range and Migration
North, South, and Central America are acquainted with Snowy Egrets as native birds. In South America, you notice their presence the entire year. Even the far south such as Argentina and Chile is used to them. Florida, West Indies, and the coastal North and Central America also happen to be used to sighting them year-round.
Other places, such as the Southern United States, know them as migratory birds. A lot of the breeding takes place in states such as New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Utah, California, and Nevada. They are generally around wetlands, regardless of the type. It can be pools, salt marshes, or riverbanks. They don’t wander around areas with high altitudes or at the coast. In Europe, Scotland and Iceland, they appear as vagrants.
At the end of the breeding season, a lot of them wander to the North. In winter, they start moving away from the breeding areas in the north. Those in the united states are seen in Trinidad and Panama. Southern Coastlines, Florida, and Pacific lowlands see more fixed residents. For those who are on the Pacific coast, the winter might be spent to the north of where their breeding range happens to be.
Snowy Egret Lifecycle
Usually, a brood from Snowy Egret has 3 to 5 eggs. The number can be 2 or 6, depending on how healthy they are. Both parents help with the incubation process. For eggs to hatch, it can take anywhere from 20 to 24 days.
Both the parents happen to feed their young ones. It can so happen that the one that hatches the last ends up starving. About 20 to 25 days after they are born, the young ones start leaving the nest. However, it is not before at least 30 days have passed that they become capable of flight.
Colonial breeding is the way of Snowy Egrets. Often, their colonies have other mixed species of birds, often wading ones. The male Snowy Egrets settles on a nest site and then begins their display. It is done both to ward off any potential rival and catch the attention of a female Egret. The display acts consist of raising their bill towards the sky, fluffing their plume, or nodding their head up and down. They do so while calling. Sometimes, they will take short flights in which they will continue on with these displays to impress their mate. They will also make round trips around their nests, fly upward, and then stumble at a quick speed downwards.
They will usually keep their nest 5’ to 10’ up. The nest site happens to be on trees or shrubs. Sometimes, they will build their nest on the ground or at a higher elevation on a tree. Both the male and female Snowy Egrets build the nest. To make it, they basically use lots of sticks to make a platform.
Anatomy of a Snowy Egret
Snowy Egrets are long. They are slender and lengthy. This species of heron happens to be medium-sized. They have thin legs with equally thin feet. Their legs happen to belong. Their belly and chest are balloon-shaped and they have a short tail compared to the long expanse of their body. Their neck is curved and thin and long as their legs. There is a generous space between their head and their chest due to their neck. On top of their neck, we come across their small head. Then, their small eyes and a bill extending from their face that is not small as such.
Their bill is straight and doesn’t have any curve to it.
If you want to see a Snowy Egret, you need to pack up for the coasts. Mudflats and wetlands that are known for frequent tides happen to be your best bet in this regard. Keep a close look on the shallows for medium-sized herons that happen to be white as the snow and have black legs and bill to complement the color of their plumage. If you look closely, you might notice the yellow on their face and feet.
Some of the Snowy Egrets population were lost back in the 1800s after becoming the prey of plume hunters. They were provided sufficient protection to let the population reach a stable number. The recent decades have seen them expanding their breeding territory towards the northern region. Today, they continue to increase their population and their breeding range. So, it is of low chance that frequent visits to the coast won’t yield the wonderful result of you coming across Snowy Egrets at least once.
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At 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.
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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Snowy Egret
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Snowy Egret 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.
Snowy Egret Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Snowy Egret is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Snowy Egret Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Snowy Egret Here is the sticker pack we sell with a Snowy Egret sticker.
Bird Feeders For Snowy Egret
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 Birdhouses for Snowy Egret
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.