Great EgretArdea alba

adult, breeding
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Great Egret
Great Egret


35-41" (89-104 cm). W. 4'7" (1.4 m). A large, all-white heron with a yellow bill and black legs. In breeding plumage, has long lacy plumes on back. Much smaller Snowy Egret has black bill and legs and yellow feet. In southern Florida, white form of Great Blue Heron is similar but larger, with greenish-yellow legs.


A guttural croak. Also loud squawks at nesting colonies.


croaks of courting group
nestling calls


Fresh and salt marshes, marshy ponds, and tidal flats.


Breeds locally from Oregon south to western Mexico, and from Minnesota to Mississippi Valley and Southeast, and along Atlantic Coast north to southern New England. Winters regularly from Oregon south through Southwest, Texas, and Gulf Coast states to Mexico, and on Atlantic Coast north to New Jersey. Also in tropical America and warmer parts of Old World.


Formerly known as the "American Egret," "Common Egret," "Large Egret," "White Egret," "Great White Egret," and "Great White Heron," this bird's official name in North America is now Great Egret. One of the most magnificent of our herons, it has fortunately recovered from historic persecution by plume hunters. But it is still not out of danger: The destruction of wetlands, especially in the West where colonies are few and widely scattered, poses a current threat to these majestic birds. Like the Great Blue Heron, it usually feeds alone, stalking fish, frogs, snakes, and crayfish in shallow water. Each summer many individuals, especially young ones, wander far north of the breeding grounds.


3-5 pale blue-green eggs placed on a platform of sticks in a tree or bush. Nests in colonies, often with other species of herons.

Similar Species


Great Blue Heron

39-52" (99-132 cm). W. 5'10" (1.8 m). A common large, mainly grayish heron with a pale or yellowish bill.


Whooping Crane

45-50" (1.1-1.3 m). W. 7' 6" (2.3 m). A very large crane, pure white with black wing tips, red on forehead and cheeks. Young birds similar, but strongly tinged with brown.

adult, breeding

Snowy Egret

20-27" (51-69 cm). W. 3'2" (97 cm). A small, delicate white heron with a slender black bill, black legs, and yellow feet. In breeding season, it has long lacy plumes on its head, neck, and back.


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