great egret flying

54 Fun Facts About Great Egrets (with Photos, ID & Info)

In this article, we will explore 54 Fun Facts About Great Egrets with Photos, ID & Information. You may have seen these beautiful birds around your neighborhood or even in a zoo and wanted to know more about them. Well now you can! 


  • Identification: Great Egrets are large dainty white water birds with an elegant appearance, standing 1 meter tall, with long s-curved necks, pointed wings, and long black legs, and long, slender toes that allow them to spear fish more easily than their smaller relatives, they also have a long sharp yellowish-orange dagger-like bill.
  • Adult Length: 3.4 feet (37.0 – 41.0″ in). 
  • Adult Weight: 1.5 – 3.3 lbs. (24.0 – 52.8 oz).
  • Wingspan: 4.3-4.8 feet (51.6 – 57.1″ in.). 
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Genus: Ardea
  • Species: A. alba
  • Binomial Name: Ardea alba
  • Scientific Name: Ardea alba
  • Distribution Range: They are found mainly in North America and Europe, parts of Africa and Asia, as well as some regions of South America. 
  • Habitat:  They are mostly found near water with abundant vegetation like marshes or swamps; they also inhabit shallow ponds or flooded fields. 
  • Diet: Their diet consists mainly of fish but will eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and occasionally small mammals as well. 
  • Lifespan:  In the Wild: 15 years of age.  In Captivity: 23 years of age.
  • North American Population: est. 200,000 individuals.
  • Europe Population: est. 70,000 individuals.
  • Global Population: est. 2.2 million individuals.
  • Conservation Status: IUCN Red List (Listed Least Concern).
  • Range of occurrence: 346,000,000 km2
  • Nesting Behavior: The Male Great Egret will build a nest near water, high up in trees or shrubs.  He will then lead his mate to it while performing elaborate courtship displays that often include him regurgitating food for her. The size of the nest is roughly 3 feet long, and1 foot wide and is made out of twigs and sticks. All materials used for lining the inside are taken from plants. He will usually stay close by until she lays an egg or two before he leaves her alone to incubate them, and go search for food. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for 28 days before they hatch into squawking chicks that need help from their parents in order to survive.
  • Incubation Length: 23-27 days
  • Nestling Length: 21-25 days
  • Clutch Size: 1-6 eggs
  • Number of Broods: 1-2 Broods per year.
  • Egg Description: Light blue in color and smooth.
great egret feeding on a fish
Image by zoosnow from Pixabay

Fun Facts About Great Egrets

  • The Great Egret is a type of heron found on every continent except Antarctica. The bird can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America as well as South America. In the United States it can be seen from Maine to Florida to California. 
  • In flight, the Great Egret has been clocked at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h), which is faster than other similar sized birds such as the Little Blue Heron 18.5 mph (30 km/h) and Black-crowned Night-Herons 25 mph (40 km/h).
  • The Great Egret is the second-largest North American heron, second only to the great blue heron, and one of the most widespread birds in the world. They are a common sight near wetlands, coasts, and even gardens throughout their range.
  • Great Egrets can live up to 15 years in the wild, but only about 10% of these will survive past 5 years old due to various predators such as herons, snakes, raccoons, cats and dogs.
  • Egrets often feed at night or during low light levels that would not disturb other animals who use those areas for daytime feeding or nesting activities.
  • Great Egrets form seasonally monogamous pairs each breeding season. The male and female will bond for the duration of their time in the breeding area, usually an estuary or salt marsh.
  • It is often found standing in the water or walking on land looking for food. This species of egret typically feeds by wading through shallow water while stalking its prey, waiting until it comes near the feet before pouncing on them.
  • The oldest-known Great Egret ever documented, was 22 years, and 10 months old.
  • They have a wing span of up to 2 meters, which makes them the largest white egret.
  • Great Egrets feed mainly on fish, frogs, snakes and other reptiles, insects and crustaceans. These birds will walk slowly through shallow waters with their long legs in order to stalk their prey.
  • They nest mostly near water – lakes, ponds or estuaries – both as single pairs or with other species of herons or egrets. Great Egrets typically build their nests in trees, but will also use man-made structures when there is no suitable tree available.
Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
  • Great Egrets have a loud call, often making high-pitched whistles, and croaking sounds to attract mates or scare off other animals.
  • The Great Egret’s scientific name is Egretta garzetta.
  • The genus name comes from the Greek words “egra” (meaning “lofty”), and “-t-os” (meaning “beaked”), and refers to the bird’s long hooked beak.
  • The specific epithet “garzetta” is a diminutive of the Italian word “garzetto”, which means “little egret”.
  • They are sometimes called “Great White Egret”.
  • There are thirteen other species in the genus Egretta.
  • The male and female are identical in appearance. The only way to tell the difference between them is by size. Males are slightly larger than females.
  • As soon as the chicks hatch from their eggs, they are called “Hatchlings.”
  • Hatchlings typically leave the nest at three weeks of age and fly by six weeks of age.
  • A group of egrets has many collective nouns, including a “wedge” of egrets, “congregation”, “heronry”,  “skewer”, and “RSVP”.​​​​​​​
  • The Great Egret was first identified by the scientific name “Ardea alba” in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus. 
  • The Great Egret is closely related to other large herons including the Snowy, Intermediate, and Cattle egrets. 
  • The Great Egret is a species which has been protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
  • Great Egrets will migrate and move south for the winter in colder regions.
  • The Great Egret is an omnivore, meaning they eat both meat and plant matter. 
  • The Great Egret cannot live in the cold weather because it lacks heavy enough feathers to keep warm. 
  • There are many threats causing the decline of the Great Egret population. These threats include habitat destruction, over fishing, use of pesticides, and oil spills. 
  • The conservation of the Great Egret is very important to preserve our natural ecosystem. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are great egrets aggressive?

Great egrets can be aggressive and very territorial birds, that will often attack other animals that come into their territory. This is especially true in nesting season, which usually lasts from April through August.

What animals eat great egrets?

There are many natural predators to Great Egrets, including raccoons, foxes, coyotes, eagles, hawks and other large birds of prey.

Where do egrets sleep at night?

Egrets also like to roost at night by sleeping standing up with one foot in the water and their head tucked under a wing. They stay alert, even when they sleep. This allows them to keep an eye out for predators or prey.

Do egrets live alone?

Egrets have been known to congregate with other egret species during breeding season, but otherwise they lead solitary lives, and prefer to spend their time alone or with a mate. The fact that they’re solitary might seem strange, but it actually makes sense when you look at the birds’ nesting habits.

Do great egrets eat snails?

One might think that Great Egrets just eat fish or insects, but in fact their diet also consists of invertebrates such as snails and crayfish. They are actually known to be one of the most prolific predators on land for slugs and snails.