Little egret
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes/Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
Species: Egretta garzetta
The little egret (egretta garzetta) is a common bird in the Ardeidae family.


It measures from 55 to 65 cm in lenght, for a wingspan of 86-104 cm. It weights about 280-640 gr. Its plumage is completely white. Adult in breeding plumage has greyish-blue face and reddish lores. We can see two white long and fine feathers on the rear crown, extending from the nape to mid-neck. It also has “aigrettes”, long feathers on the upper breast and recurved scapular feathers. At this period, the base of the lower mandible is greyish. Feet are bright orange, even sometimes reddish for short time. In winter plumage, the Little Egret has black bill, greyish lores and pale yellow or greenish-yellow feet. It lacks the long nape feathers, and the “aigrettes” on its body. Eyes are pale yellow. Both sexes are similar. Juvenile resembles adult in winter, with duller or greenish bill and legs, and greenish-grey feet, with less contrasts. We can find several subspecies, E.g. garzetta, nigripes, immaculata, gularis, schistacea and dimorpha. They differ by feet, legs, bill and lores’ colours. Size of the bill is different in some races such as gularis and schistacea. [1]


Little egrets are sociable birds and are often seen in small flocks. Nevertheless, individual birds do not tolerate others coming too close to their chosen feeding site, though this depends on the abundance of prey. They use a variety of methods to procure their food; they stalk their prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling their feet to disturb small fish, or may stand still and wait to ambush prey. They make use of opportunities provided by cormorants disturbing fish or humans attracting fish by throwing bread into water. On land they walk or run while chasing their prey, feed on creatures disturbed by grazing livestock and ticks on the livestock, and even scavenge. Their diet is mainly fish, but amphibians, small reptiles, mammals and birds are also eaten, as well as crustaceans, molluscs, insects, spiders and worms. Little egrets nest in colonies, often with other wading birds. On the coasts of western India these colonies may be in urban areas, and associated birds include cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and black-headed ibises (Threskiornis melanocephalus). In Europe, associated species may be squacco herons (Ardeola ralloides), cattle egrets, black-crowned night herons and glossy ibises (Plegadis falcinellus). The nests are usually platforms of sticks built in trees or shrubs, or in reed beds or bamboo groves. In some locations such as the Cape Verde Islands, the birds nest on cliffs. Pairs defend a small breeding territory, usually extending around 3 to 4 m (10 to 13 ft) from the nest. The three to five eggs are incubated by both adults for 21 to 25 days before hatching. They are oval in shape and have a pale, non-glossy, blue-green shell colour. The young birds are covered in white down feathers, are cared for by both parents and fledge after 40 to 45 days.

Distribution and habitatEdit

The breeding range of the western race (E. g. garzetta) includes southern Europe, the Middle East, much of Africa and southern Asia. Northern European populations are migratory, mostly travelling to Africa although some remain in southern Europe, while some Asian populations migrate to the Philippines. The eastern race, (E. g. nigripes), is resident in Indonesia and New Guinea, while E. g. immaculata inhabits Australia and New Zealand, but does not breed in the latter. During the late twentieth century, the range of the little egret expanded northwards in Europe and into the New World, where a breeding population was established on Barbados in 1994. The birds have since spread elsewhere in the Caribbean region and on the Atlantic coast of the United States. The little egret's habitat varies widely, and includes the shores of lakes, rivers, canals, ponds, lagoons, marshes and flooded land, the bird preferring open locations to dense cover. On the coast it inhabits mangrove areas, swamps, mudflats, sandy beaches and reefs. Rice fields are an important habitat in Italy, and coastal and mangrove areas are important in Africa. The bird often moves about among cattle or other hoofed mammals. [2]


  1. Information from [1]
  2. Information from [2]

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