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Great Egret

Ardea alba ORDER: PELECANIFORMES FAMILY: ARDEIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

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Calls

Great Egrets make dry, croaking sounds, nasal squeals, and other harsh calls. They are particularly vocal during breeding season as they go about establishing territories, courting, forming pairs, and maintaining pair bonds.

Other Sounds

Great Egrets snap their bills together loudly while lowering and extending their heads, to ward off competitors.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Visit a pond or coastal marsh and look for an all-white bird—slightly smaller than a Great Blue Heron, with black legs and a yellow bill. It may be wading slowly or standing stock-still, peering intently at the water as it searches for fish. If you live outside of the species’ breeding range, you may still see Great Egrets in late summer as they move about widely before heading to their wintering grounds.