Great Egret

Ardea alba

A large white heron, the Great Egret is found across much of the world, from southern Canada southward to Argentina, and in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It's the largest egret in the Old World, and thus has garnered the name Great White Egret. But in the Americas, the white form of the Great Blue Heron is larger and warrants that name. In the United States, the Great Egret used to be called the American Egret but that was hardly appropriate, since the species range extends beyond America and indeed farther than other herons.

Interesting Information

  • The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.

  • Not all young that hatch survive the nestling period. Aggression among nestlings is common and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings.

  • The longevity record for a wild Great Egret is nearly 23 years.


Adult Description

  • Size: 94-104 cm (37-41 in)

  • Wingspan: 131-145 cm (52-57 in)

  • Weight: 1000 g (35.3 ounces)

  • Large, all white heron.

  • Long, black legs and feet.

  • Yellow bill is long, stout, and straight.

  • Flies with neck pulled back in S-curve.

  • Bill yellow with dark top edge.

  • Long plumes on back during breeding.

  • No crest or plumes on head.

  • In high breeding, the bill becomes orange-yellow and the lores become lime-green.

Sex Differences

Sexes similar.


Looks like nonbreeding adult.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


  • Nests in colonies with other species, in shrubs and trees over water, and on islands.

  • Feeds in variety of wetlands, including marshes, swamps, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, tide flats, canals, and flooded fields.


Walks slowly, stands and stabs prey with quick lunge of the bill.


Fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
    Subfamily: Ardeinaee
Genus: Ardea
Species: Ardea alba
    Subspecies: Ardea alba alba
  Ardea alba egretta
  Ardea alba melanorhynchos
  Ardea alba modesta

Similar Species

  • Snowy Egret is smaller, has black bill, and yellow feet.

  • Great White Heron, the white form of the Great Blue Heron, has a heavier bill, and pale, not black, legs.

  • The white form of the Reddish Egret has a dark or bi-colored bill.

  • The white juvenile of the Little Blue Heron has greenish legs, and a dark bill with a bluish base.

  • Cattle Egret can have a yellow bill and black legs, but it is much shorter and stockier, and often has a reddish wash over the head, back, and chest.

Bird Sound

A deep croak when disturbed. Other low calls around nest.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution


Great Egret 1

Up close and personal #1

Great Egret 2

Up close and personal #2

Great Egret 3

Walking on land

Great Egret 4

Great Egret meets little kid

Great Egret 5

Just Chill'n