Little Egret

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Image:Little egret.jpg

Common Name: Little Egret
Scientific Name: Egretta garzetta

Size: 22-26 inches (55-56 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. In warmer locations, most birds are permanent residents; northern populations, including many European birds, migrate to Africa and southern Asia. They may also wander north after the breeding season, which presumably has led to this egret's range expansion. Little Egrets were found on Barbados in April 1954. It began breeding on the island in 1994. Birds are seen with increasing regularity and have occurred from Surinam and Brazil in the south to Newfoundland and Quebec in the north. Birds on the east coast of North America are thought to have moved north with Snowy Egrets from the Caribbean. Little Egrets are mostly found in large inland wetlands and coastal wetlands in warm temperate areas.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 659,000 - 3,140,000 At one time, the plumes of the Little Egret and other egrets were in demand for decorating hats. They had been used for this purpose since at least the 17th century but in the 19th century it became a major craze and the number of egret skins passing through dealers reached into the millions. Egret farms were set up where the birds could be plucked without being killed but most of the supply was obtained by hunting which reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels (stimulating the establishment of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889). Now conservation laws protect this species, and the population has rebounded strongly.

While Little Egret is not listed as a threatened species on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999. the Little Egret subspecies (Egretta garzetta ssp. nigripes) is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988) and endangered on the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria..

Diet: Fish, insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles. It stalks its prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling its feet.

Nesting: Little Egrets nest in colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs or in a reed-bed or bamboo grove. In some areas they will nest on cliffs.

Pairs defend a small breeding territory, usually extending around 3–4 m from the nest. The three to five eggs are incubated by both adults for 21–25 days to hatching. They are oval in shape and have a pale, non-glossy, blue-green color. The young birds are covered in white down feathers, are cared for by both parents and fledge after 40 to 45 days.

Cool Facts: They are mostly silent but make various croaking and bubbling calls at their breeding colonies and produce a harsh alarm call when disturbed.

There are at least two subspecies of Little Egret. The nominate subspecies Egretta garzetta ssp. garzetta occurs in Europe, Africa and Asia. Egretta garzetta ssp. nipgripes breeds in Indonesia and Australasia. Those in Australia are sometimes thought to represent a third subspecies Egretta garzetta ssp. immaculata.

The main difference between Egretta garzetta and Egretta garzetta ssp. nipgripes is that the greenish-gray patch between the eye and the bill is yellow on the subspecies and it has completely black feet.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume I

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