Living Bird Magazine
Snowy EgretEgretta thula
- ORDER: Pelecaniformes
- FAMILY: Ardeidae
Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages. Breeding Snowy Egrets grow filmy, curving plumes that once fetched astronomical prices in the fashion industry, endangering the species. Early conservationists rallied to protect egrets by the early twentieth century, and this species is once again a common sight in shallow coastal wetlands.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Your best chances of seeing Snowy Egrets will come on a trip to the coast, especially to places with mudflats and tidal wetlands. Scan the shallows for slender, medium-sized white herons with black bills and legs. A closer inspection will likely reveal the yellow facial skin and feet of a Snowy Egret.
- Garceta Nívea (Spanish)
- Aigrette neigeuse (French)
- Cool Facts
- Male and female Snowy Egrets take turns incubating their eggs. As one mate takes over for the other, it sometimes presents a stick, almost as if passing a baton. Both parents continue caring for the young when they hatch.
- During the breeding season, adult Snowy Egrets develop long, wispy feathers on their backs, necks, and heads. In 1886 these plumes were valued at $32 per ounce, which was twice the price of gold at the time. Plume-hunting for the fashion industry killed many Snowy Egrets and other birds until reforms were passed in the early twentieth century. The recovery of shorebird populations through the work of concerned citizens was an early triumph and helped give birth to the conservation movement.
- Adult Snowy Egrets have greenish-yellow feet for most of the year, but at the height of the breeding season their feet take on a much richer, orange-yellow hue. The bare skin on their face also changes color, from yellow to reddish.
- Snowy Egrets sometimes mate with other heron species and produce hybrid offspring. They have been known to hybridize with Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Cattle Egrets.
- The oldest Snowy Egret on record was at least 17 years, 7 months old. It was banded in Colorado in 1970 and found in Mexico in 1988.