Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

Elegant and poised heron with white plumage.

Little Egret

Length:

55cm to 65cm

Wingspan:

88cm to 95cm

Weight:

350g to 550g

What does a Little Egret look like?

The little egret is a species of small heron. It has a long neck and a slender, elegant body bedecked in entirely white plumage. In the breeding season, little egrets have two, long neck plumes and similar elongated feathers along their backs. During this time, the bare skin between the bird’s bill and eyes, normally blue, turns red. The bill is long, dark and dagger-like. Long black legs end in large, sharply contrasting yellow feet. Sexes are alike and appearance generally remains similar throughout the year. Juveniles have slightly duller legs and feet than the adults. Little egret chicks are covered in white downy feathers.

Little Egret

What does a Little Egret sound like?

The little egret’s voice is a harsh ‘khaah’ and other grating sounds heard at colonies, otherwise it is mostly silent. Its greeting call is a loud ‘da-wah’.

Little Egret Call

Alan Dalton, XC611627. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/611627.

What does a Little Egret eat?

The little egret eats small fish, insects, amphibians and worms. It will stride through shallows kicking its feet in order to upturn food, or will wait motionless to ambush fish. Small reptiles and birds are also eaten on occasion.

Little Egret

Little Egret fishing

Did you know?

In Victorian times, the little egret’s beautiful feathers were a popular adornment on ladies’ hats, and the demand for these feathers nearly led to the extinction of the species.

Where can I see Little Egrets?

The little egret had a wide and varied habitat, which includes shallow lakes, wetlands, lagoons, salt pans, river, canals and swamps. It is becoming increasingly common in southern Britain and can often be spotted on flooded land. It is most common along the south and east coasts of England and Wales. Here it can be seen all year round, though number increase in autumn in winter as birds arrive from overseas. Little egrets are sociable birds and are often seen in small flocks. They can be seen at a great many RSPB reserves at various wetlands, marshes and coastal areas.

Little Egret

Little Egret coming in to land

Signs and spotting tips

The little egret is the most common white heron-like bird in Europe. In flight, the little egret holds its head and neck hunched, while its long legs trail behind, ending in dangling yellow feet. While roosting, the little egret will appear hunched up, but when poised motionless waiting for prey it is most elegant. Little egrets will also chase prey over land. They are also familiar sights moving through herds of cattle.

How does a Little Egret breed?

Little egrets nest in colonies. Their nests are usually a platform of sticks built in trees or shrubs, or almonds reeds. The female will lay a clutch of 3-4 greenish-blue eggs, which both adults will take turns in incubating for a period of 21-25 days. The fledgling period for the young is 50-55 days, during which time they are cared for by both the adults, who will raise 1 brood a year.

How long does a Little Egret live for?

Little egrets typically live for 5 years but can live for up to 13.

Little Egret

Do Little Egrets migrate?

Little egrets are migratory with northern European populations travelling to Africa, although some stay in southern Europe.

Threats and conservation

The little egret has a UK conservation status of Green. The UK breeding populations counts approximately 700 pairs, and the UK wintering population is around 4,500 birds. The species first arrived in Britain in 1950s and their numbers here have been steadily increasing ever since.

Similar birds to a Little Egret

Other birds in the Herons, storks and ibises family