|Conservation status||Numbers were decimated in late 1800s by plume hunters. With protection, populations recovered. In recent decades, has expanded breeding range far north of historical limits. Probably still expanding range and increasing population.|
|Family||Herons, Egrets, Bitterns|
|Habitat||Marshes, swamps, ponds, shores. Widespread in many types of aquatic habitats, including fresh and salt water; in coastal areas, may seek sheltered bays. Inland, favors extensive marshes and other large wetlands. Sometimes forages in dry fields. Nests in colonies in trees, shrubs, mangroves, sometimes on or near the ground in marshes.|
Often forages actively, walking or running in shallow water, also standing still and waiting for prey to approach. May stir bottom sediments with feet to startle prey into motion. Sometimes hovers and then drops to water. Also may feed in open fields, sometimes following cattle to catch insects flushed by the animals.
3-5, sometimes 2-6. Pale blue-green. Incubation is by both sexes, 20-24 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Last young to hatch may starve. Young may clamber out of nest after 20-25 days, probably unable to fly before 30 days.
Both parents feed young. Last young to hatch may starve. Young may clamber out of nest after 20-25 days, probably unable to fly before 30 days.
Includes fish, insects, crustaceans. Diet is varied, includes fish, crabs, crayfish, frogs, snakes, insects, snails, worms, lizards, rodents.
Breeds in colonies, often or usually mixed with other species of wading birds. Male selects nest site and displays there to ward off rivals and attract a mate. Displays include pointing bill straight up, raising all plumes, and pumping head up and down while calling; variant of this sometimes given in short flight. Also flies in circles around nest site; flies high and then tumbles down. Nest: Site is in tree or shrub, usually 5-10' up, sometimes on ground or higher in tree. Nest (built by both sexes) is a platform of sticks.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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After breeding season, may wander well north. Withdraws in winter from northern breeding areas; birds banded in United States recovered in Panama, Trinidad. Permanent resident in parts of Florida, southern coastlines, Pacific lowlands. On Pacific Coast, some may winter slightly north of breeding range.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA harsh squawk.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Snowy Egret
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Snowy Egret
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.