CREATURE FEATURE #28
Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
The striking white plumage, black legs and distinctive yellow feet of the snowy egret make this one of our islands’ most attractive resident wading birds. They are frequently found on the beach, fishing in the shallows, especially on calm mornings.
Highly evolved for a life of fishing, the snowy egret with its long legs, long slender neck and pointed bill, is perfectly designed for catching the small fish and crustaceans in the shallows. Sometimes, standing motionless until the moment they strike, they also can be observed herding fish with widespread wings and their bright yellow feet.
The snowy egret can be found at least seasonally throughout most of the United States, inhabiting rivers, lake shorelines as well as swamps and wet agricultural fields. They are most commonly encountered along thecoasts.
They can be seen nesting in colonies often in association with other wading birds on small isolated islands and mature cypress swamps.
Now a recovered species, the snowy egret was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century as commercial plume hunters harvested these birds for their gaudy breeding season plumage. These were the feathers that adorned the hats of fashionable ladies throughout the Americas and Europe at the time. Legal protection and post Great War changes in fashion saved this species from demise.