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Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

(Hans Stieglitz/Wikimedia Commons)
(Hans Stieglitz/Wikimedia Commons)

The snowy egret is a medium-sized white heron with a slender black bill and distinctive yellow feet. It visits the Chesapeake Bay’s marshes, wetlands and shallow waters from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • White body
  • Slender black bill
  • Black legs and yellow feet
  • Long, feathery plumes on the head, neck and breast during breeding season
  • Grows to 27 inches with a wingspan of 41 inches

Habitat:

  • Lives in tidal marshes and wetlands, as well as ponds and mud flats

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay region in mid-spring
  • Leaves in autumn to winter in the Carolinas and southward

Feeding:

  • Eats mostly fish and crustaceans, but will also feed on frogs, snakes, worms and insects
  • Scurries around the water as it hunts. This is much more active than other herons and egrets, which stand still and silently stalk their prey.
  • Uses its feet to stir up mud under water, then stabs its bill into the water to find prey
  • Often forages in groups with other aquatic birds

Field Guide: Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

Predators:

  • Owls, hawks, raccoons and poisonous snakes prey upon snowy egrets and their young

Flight:

  • In flight, holds its head back and its neck in a tight curve
  • Flies with rapid wingbeats
  • Often flies in flocks when returning to roosting areas in the evening

Voice:

  • Call is a low croak
  • During breeding season, may make a woola-woola-woola sound

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Nests and breeds in colonies (called rookeries) with other herons, egrets and ibises. Rookeries are found on Bay islands such as Poplar, Tangier and Fisherman.
  • Nests in low shrubs or trees near the water
  • Males perform courtship rituals such as vocalizations and flight displays to attract a mate. Once they find a mate, the female builds a nest made out of woven sticks and twigs.
  • Females lay 3-6 pale, greenish-blue eggs, which hatch in approximately 24 days
  • Chicks usually fledge two weeks after hatching
  • Can live as long as 17 years

Other Facts:

  • One of three white herons that visit the Chesapeake Bay region. The other two are the great egret and the cattle egret.

Sources and Additional Information:




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