The Little Egret is a species of small heron, weighing between 350-550g. It is white, with black legs and bill, yellow feet. During the breeding season, two long plumes grow on its head and neck.
Highly social, forming large flocks (sometimes including other species) numbering in their thousands during breeding seasons. When hunting, they stalk prey in shallow water, using their feet or ruffling their wings to disturb prey.
Historically were present in the UK and Ireland until the 16th century, when hunting and climate change caused their localised extinction, with rare, sporadic visitors.
In the late 20th century however, it has become more common in the UK, regularly breeding and often seen in large numbers. The population in the UK is steadily increasing, and their range is gradually moving northwards.
Wetland habitat destruction and degradation due to drainage for agriculture, and agricultural contamination is a major factor that threatens little egret populations. They were hunted for their head plumes historically, however this is no longer a threat.
Large global distribution. Some European populations migrate to Africa, whilst Asian populations migrate to the Philippines. There are also resident populations in the warmer parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, in addition to Australia and New Zealand.
Wetland bird, found in shallow water such as lagoons, marshes, rivers, ponds, mangroves, swamps and mudflats. Open areas are preferred over dense cover.
Opportunistic predator feeding mainly on fish, aquatic and terrestrial insects and crustaceans. Amphibians, reptiles, molluscs and small birds may also be taken.
Our little egrets can be found in our Ken West Aviary, along with our red-billed chough, avocets and night heron. Keep your eyes peeled around the rest of the park though, as we do regularly get wild Little egrets occasionally visiting.
Did you know?
There are dark colour forms, whereby the plumage is bluish-grey instead of their characteristic white.