The snowy egret is a medium-sized bird with beautiful white plumage, black legs and bright yellow feet. Those feet play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages while feeding in shallow areas of ponds and marshes. They use one foot to stir up the bottom, flushing prey into view.
A group of egrets has many collective nouns, including a “congregation”, “heronry”, “RSVP”, “skewer”, and “wedge” of egrets.
The snowy egret range from the United States and southern Canada, south through Central America, the West Indies, South America, and Argentina. In eastern North America, snowy egrets winter along the Gulf Coast and in Florida, as well as north along the Atlantic Coast to New Jersey.
Click on any image below for a slideshow of snowy egret pictures:
The snowy egret usually nests in mixed colonies with other herons. Both fresh and saltwater habitats are used as nesting areas. The flat, shallow nests are made of sticks and lined with fine twigs and rushes. They are usually built in trees or shrubs.
There is evidence that a pair of snowy egrets cannot recognize each other except at the nest. Even there, a bird arriving to relieve its mate must perform an elaborate greeting ceremony in order to avoid being attacked as an intruder. The young are fed in the nest for about 3 weeks. Both parents regurgitate food at first. Before they leave the nest, the chicks get brave enough to venture out on the branches near the nest.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the beautiful plumes of the snowy egret were in great demand by market hunters as decorations for women’s hats. In 1886, plumes were valued at $32 per ounce, which was twice the price of gold at the time. They were hunted nearly to extinction before laws were fortunately passed to protect them.