Birding…Great Egret

by Larry Czajkoski

The Great Egret is by far the largest of our four egret species, with the longest neck, all-yellow bill, and black legs (which help birders distinguish it from the Cattle and Snowy egrets.) Once a favored target of plume-hunters, the Great Egret has rebounded over the last century following conservation measures and enforcement of the Audubon bird-protection laws. Over the years, the Great Egret has had other names, including “common egret”, “American egret”, and “great white egret.” The current name stresses the large size of the bird in relation to other egrets. Here in North Carolina, the Great Egret is prevalent along the coastal regions and ventures inland and northward during the summer months after their breeding season.

Like most other herons, the Great Egret’s neck is S-shaped (like the egret here I photographed) and folded back when the bird is flying. When disturbed or taking flight, the Great Egret may issue its croaking call, which is somewhat similar to but lower than the Great Blue Heron’s call. Great Egrets frequent a variety of watery habitats, including marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes and large ponds, where you may find them alone or in small or large groups. More so than I can remember in recent years, the Great Egret has been a frequent visitor to Lake Lure this summer. On several occasions during this past July, I have witnessed a single Great Egret “fishing” at the shores of the ponds at Apple Valley Golf Course. The Great Egret typically forages by standing very still, waiting for an unsuspecting fish, frogs, crayfish, snake, or other prey. But, this long-legged bird may also slowly wade and strike at quarry, sometimes grasping prey with its bill and sometimes spearing it. Although they often feed in the company of other egrets and herons (among other birds)….more than once, I have witnessed a bit of a territorial squabble between the Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron….no doubt, a dispute of sorts regarding their favorite entrees (Hmmm, on that subject, I will defer to our Breeze restaurant review writer…

One thought on “Birding…Great Egret

  1. Re: Great Egret
    I snapped a photo of an Egret the other night behind Publix in Hendersonville. I thought this was very unusual, then I see the article in the Breeze.

Leave a Reply