Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Egret

The Great Egret is a common and welcome visitor to the Back Forty. The egret is the largest and most widespread egret in America and a most elegant and graceful bird.  There is no distinction between the male and the female; they both are snowy white with a yellow beak and black legs and feet.  The breeding birds have impressive plumage reaching from the top of their heads to the end of their tails.

In flight, the long slender neck is tucked into the egret's body.  The wing span can reach over 50 inches and they are tall and skinny birds.  They are most graceful when they land on the scenic creek bordering the Back Forty.

The Great Egret wades ever so slowly in shallow water, most often waiting for fish and frogs to come to him and then he spears the prey with his rather long and pointed beak.  His black legs and feet make good camouflage in ditches and lakes; not easily seen, they are just some sticks or shadows.

Great Egret
The egrets are social birds, nesting together in colonies or resting on banks by the water's edge.  We have only one Egret that comes and visit the Back Forty; that is, one at a time.  It may be just one bird or they may be taking turns to visit.

In our backyard, the Egret can hunt without being disturbed.  He hekps himself to anoles and small lizards, insects, and an occasional small snake.  Again, the Egret waits patiently for its prey to come to him and when his prey is within reach, he spears them quickly with his beak.  He does not charge his prey.

Many a times, I have taken the kitchen debris to the compost pile, deep in thought, enjoying the solitude and the quietness of the yard when all of a sudden I am eye to eye with the white egret.  I am startled.  I scream. He screams silently.  Woman, get a grip on yourself.  After I have recovered, I continue on my merry way, avoiding the egret, and he continues to scour the yard for more suitable food.

In the late 19th century, the egret was hunted for its showy white feathers for women's hats and was fast becoming extinct.  The only threat to the egret nowadays is the human population encroaching on his territory but he is adapting well in both urban and suburban settings.  My featherless hat is off to this bird.

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