Great Egret

(Ardea alba)

Conservation Status
Great Egret
Photo by Kirk Nelson
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

N5B, N5N - Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Great Egret is a large, slender heron. It is the symbol for the National Audubon Society. The common name is a misnomer, as this is actually a heron, in the genus Ardea (great herons).

Adults are 36 to 42 long and have a wingspan of 48 to 60. They weigh 32 to 40 ounces. Males are larger than females. They live about 15 years.

The plumage is completely white. The neck is very long. Small patches of skin between the eyes and bill (lores) are green.

The bill is long, stout, straight, and yellow.

The legs are long and black. The feet are black.

In flight their neck is pulled back forming an "S" curve and they trail their feet.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

36 to 42 in length

48 wingspan

 
     
 

Voice

 
 

Loud, low-pitched, rapid cuk-cuk-cuk.

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a stockier, much smaller bird, 19 to 21. The bill and legs are orange.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a smaller bird, 22 to 26. The bill is black. The feet are yellow, though the legs, like those of the Great Egret, are black.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Freshwater, mud flats, tidal shallows, marshes, irrigation canals, open riverbanks.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Migration

 
 

April to September

 
     
 

Nesting

 
 

Nesting is usually in colonies in wetlands and wooded swamps, often with Great Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants. Occasionally, a pair will nest alone. The nest is a platform of sticks, twigs, and stems in a tree or tall shrub over water.

The clutch is 1 to 6 (average 3) pale, greenish-blue eggs.

 
     
 

Food

 
 

Frogs, lizards, snakes, crayfish, fish, mice, birds, aquatic and other insects.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common migrant and breeder

 
         
 

Maps

 
 

The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Aves (birds)  
 

Order

Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, and allies)  
 

Family

Ardeidae (bitterns, egrets, herons)  
 

Subfamily

Ardeinae (typical herons and egrets)  
 

Genus

Ardea (great herons)  
       
 

Bitterns, egrets, and herons (family Ardeidae) were formerly classified under the order Ciconiiformes. Based on a phylogenomic study published in 2008, the family was transferred to the order Pelecaniformes.

 
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

African Egret (Ardea alba melanorhynchos)

American Great Egret (Ardea alba egretta)

Eastern Great Egret (Ardea alba modesta) *

Western Great Egret (Ardea alba alba)

_____________________

* Eastern Great Egret is sometimes treated as a separate species, Ardea modesta.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Casmerodius albus

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this bird.

 
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Dan Johnson

 
 

A gathering of Egrets

 
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret      
 

Erica Erickson

 
    Great Egret      
 

Ramona Abrego

 
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
 

Lynn Rubey

 
  Great Egret perched in a tree above the marsh in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The green color around the eeye during breeding season is nearly gone.   Great Egret  
 

Dan W. Andree

 
 

I believe this is a White Egret...

or Great Egret...Not sure though. I took this photo back in early April 2019. I noticed it walking along a pool of standing water at the Ada, Mn. Golf Course. A pretty cool, tall white bird.

  Great Egret  
           
 

Great Egret...

It was hanging around a creek in rural Norman Co. Mn. April 27, 2018. It was rather far away even with my lens at full zoom. Seldom seen one in this area. Spring migration one can sometimes catch views of migrating birds that may nest elsewhere. I probably wouldn’t of thought of photographing the plain landscape had it not been for the contrasting bright white egret adding beauty of its own to it.

  Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
 

Kirk Nelson

 
 

6/24/2018 – Egrets are quite common around Minnesota, but I have never gotten as close to one as I did today, about 20 feet. They usually fly away when you start moving closer. This one perched there above the stream for several minutes while I watched and took photos.

  Great Egret  
 

Wayne Rasmussen

 
    Great Egret      
           
  White Egrets are occasional visitors to Maplewood Hts Park even though the Blue Heron tries to protect his territory with ferocity.   Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
 

Elizabeth Daughton

 
 

Great egret, Colonial Church pond, Edina, April 1.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 

The egret explored a small pond and searched for food on September 3.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 

An egret walks through the shallows at the Colonial Church pond, Edina.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 

The great egret balanced on one leg while cleaning his feathers.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 

The egret, surprised by my presence, flees to a nearby tree where he perches over a pond.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 

A great egret lives in a tree overlooking the pond.

 
    Great Egret      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret   Great Egret  
           
    Great Egret      
           

 

Camera

 

     
 
Slideshows
 
  Great Egret
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
 
  Great Egret  
  Great Egret
Ed McVicker
 
  Great Egret  
  Great Egret
JMC Nature Photos
 
  Great Egret  
  Great Egret
Craig A. Mullenbach
 
  Great Egret  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Other Videos
 
  Great Egret [Ardea Alba]
Avi Birds
 
   
 
About

Sep 29, 2020

In this video, we look at the great egret.

   
  Great Egrets on the UL Lafayette Campus
nemastoma2
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Sep 24, 2008

http://morayeel.louisiana.edu/SeaweedsLab/phycomirth.html
The Great Egret (Ardea alba), also known as the Great White Egret or Common Egret, is a common visiting wading bird in the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) swamp ("Cypress Lake") on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) can also be seen swimming in the swamp.

This solitary egret was filmed on September 24, 2008 by SUzanne Fredericq. The species can be distinguished from other white egrets and herons by size, yellow bill that may have a black ridge, and black legs and feet. Note the characteristic sideways neck- and head-bobbing (triangulation) behavior prior to catching a prey.

   
  Great Egret Rookery
R Lee
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 10, 2012

Fergus Falls MN. Great Egrets return each year to nest in a few trees in one of our secluded parks.

   
  Great Egrets in Fergus Falls
Janelle Streed
 
   
 
About

Published on May 8, 2013

Great Egrets in Breeding plumage, during mating season when they put on interesting displays trying to attract a mate. Taped at Grotto Lake rookery where both Great Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants have built their nests in a tree located in the lake.

   
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this bird.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Chris
8/31/2021

Location: Just north of Cambridge, MN

 
  Dan Johnson
8/23/2020

Location: Bassett Creek Park, Crystal, MN

A gathering of Egrets

Great Egret

 
  Erica Erickson
7/7/2020

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan MN

Great Egret

 
  Ramona Abrego

Location: Washington County

Great Egret

 
  Lynn Rubey
6/19/2019

Location: Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

Great Egret perched in a tree above the marsh in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The green color around the eeye during breeding season is nearly gone.

Great Egret

 
  Dan W. Andree
April 2019

Location: Ada, Mn.

I believe this is a White Egret...or Great Egret...Not sure though. I took this photo back in early April 2019. I noticed it walking along a pool of standing water at the Ada, Mn. Golf Course. A pretty cool, tall white bird.

Great Egret

 
  Kirk Nelson
6/24/2018

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Egrets are quite common around Minnesota, but I have never gotten as close to one as I did today, about 20 feet. They usually fly away when you start moving closer. This one perched there above the stream for several minutes while I watched and took photos.

Great Egret

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
5/17/2018

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Great Egret

 
  Dan W. Andree
4/27/2018

Location: rural Norman Co. Mn.

It was hanging around a creek.... It was rather far away even with my lens at full zoom. Seldom seen one in this area. Spring migration one can sometimes catch views of migrating birds that may nest elsewhere. I probably wouldn’t of thought of photographing the plain landscape had it not been for the contrasting bright white egret adding beauty of its own to it.

Great Egret

 
  Eilleene Stawarski
9/22/2017

Location: Mississippi River near SCSU.

I was amazed to see it on the bank. Then it flew right over my head. It certainly was large with a great wing span.

 
  Elizabeth Daughton
4/1/2017

Location: Colonial Church pond

Great Egret

 
  Elizabeth Daughton
9/3/2016

Location: Bredesen Park, Edina, MN.

The egret explored a small pond and searched for food on September 3.

Great Egret

 
  Elizabeth Daughton
8/23/2016

Location: Hennepin County

An egret walks through the shallows at the Colonial Church pond, Edina.

Great Egret

 
  Elizabeth Daughton
8/12/2016

Location: pond next to the Colonial Church, Edina.

The egret, surprised by my presence, flees to a nearby tree where he perches over a pond.

Great Egret

 
  Elizabeth Daughton
8/7/2016

Location: 2 great egrets  live near the pond at the Colonial Church, Edina

the egrets live about ten yards from each other and may be a pair. A great blue heron lives nearby. For the past two days, one egret has been moving twigs in a tree overlooking the pond.

Great Egret

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
6/8/2016

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

White Egrets are occasional visitors to Maplewood Hts Park even though the Blue Heron tries to protect his territory with ferocity.

Great Egret

 
  Michael C. Davis
8/13/2015

Location: Snail Lake Park

For the last week there have been upwards of 40 Egrets roosting in the trees at dusk. They roost on the northwest side of the loop trail. Before they go up into the trees they hang out in the marsh that the loop trail circles and are often quite close to the trial, usually on the eastern side of the trail.

 
  TLV
6/9/2014

Location: SW edge of Birch Lake, White Bear Lake, MN

Early evening, a tall, slender, stately white bird, which from its appearance could only have been a Great Egret, walked slowly across the shoreline of our property on Birch Lake. It took its time, paying little attention to anything around it, stood for a few moments at the point where open water meets a reed bed, then gracefully took flight and headed NE across the lake and out of view. I stood about 90 feet away watching the whole time.

 
           
 
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