great egret flying

65 Fun Facts About Great Egrets: An In-Depth Guide!

Whether you’ve glimpsed these majestic birds in your local wetlands or witnessed their grace in the untamed wilderness, prepare to embark on an exhilarating journey of discovery. We present to you 65 captivating Fun Facts About Great Egrets, accompanied by stunning photos, comprehensive identification details, and in-depth insights. From their elegant presence in your neighborhood to their natural habitat in the wild, join us in unraveling the wonders of Great Egrets.

Great Egret (Overview)

great egret feeding on a fish
Image by zoosnow from Pixabay

Fun Facts About Great Egrets

IdentificationGreat Egrets are large, dainty white water birds with an elegant appearance. They stand about 1 meter tall and have long, S-curved necks, pointed wings, long black legs, long slender toes for spearing fish, and a long sharp yellowish-orange dagger-like bill.
Adult Length3.4 feet (37.0 – 41.0″ in).
Adult Weight1.5 – 3.3 lbs. (24.0 – 52.8 oz).
Wingspan4.3-4.8 feet (51.6 – 57.1″ in).
TaxonomyOrder: Pelecaniformes, Family: Ardeidae, Genus: Ardea, Species: A. alba, Binomial Name: Ardea alba, Scientific Name: Ardea alba.
Distribution RangeFound mainly in North America and Europe, parts of Africa and Asia, and some regions of South America.
HabitatTypically, near water with abundant vegetation like marshes, swamps, shallow ponds, or flooded fields.
DietMainly fish, but also includes insects, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and occasionally small mammals.
LifespanIn the Wild: 15 years of age; In Captivity: 23 years of age.
PopulationNorth American Population: Estimated 200,000 individuals; Europe Population: Estimated 70,000 individuals; Global Population: Estimated 2.2 million individuals.
Conservation StatusIUCN Red List (Listed Least Concern).
Range of OccurrenceApproximately 346,000,000 km2.
Nesting BehaviorThe male Great Egret builds a nest near water, high up in trees or shrubs, and performs elaborate courtship displays, including regurgitating food for the mate. The nest is about 3 feet long, 1 foot wide, made of twigs and sticks, and lined with plant materials. Both parents incubate the eggs for 28 days.
Incubation Length23–27 days.
Nestling Length21–25 days.
Clutch Size1–6 eggs.
Number of Broods1–2 Broods per year.
Egg DescriptionLight blue in color and smooth.
  • Impressive Flight Speed: In flight, the Great Egret has been recorded at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h), outpacing similar-sized birds like the Little Blue Heron (18.5 mph) and Black-crowned Night-Herons (25 mph).
  • Nocturnal Feeding: These birds often feed at night or during low-light conditions, minimizing disturbance to other diurnal animals using the same areas for feeding or nesting.
  • Impressive Wingspan: These birds boast a wingspan of up to 2 meters, making them the largest among white egrets.
  • Chick Terminology: Young Great Egrets are called “Hatchlings.”
  • Developmental Milestones: Hatchlings typically leave the nest at three weeks of age and achieve flight capability by six weeks of age.
  • Omnivorous Diet: Great Egrets exhibit an omnivorous diet, consuming both meat and plant matter.
  • Cold Weather Limitation: Their lack of heavy insulating feathers prevents them from surviving in cold weather.
Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
  • Migratory Behavior: While some populations of Great Egrets are migratory, others are sedentary, staying in their breeding areas year-round. Migration patterns can vary depending on the region.
  • Communication: These birds use various vocalizations and body language to communicate with each other. Their vocal repertoire includes soft clucks and squawks in addition to their loud calls.
  • Elegant Plumage: Great Egrets are known for their elegant, all-white plumage, which is in stark contrast to their striking black legs and yellow bills.
  • Breeding Range: While they are known to breed in a variety of wetland habitats, Great Egrets have also been observed nesting on small islands and even in urban areas.
  • Fishing Techniques: When hunting for fish, they employ a patient and stealthy approach. They use their sharp beaks to spear their prey quickly.
  • Social Behavior: These birds are often seen foraging in groups, especially in prime feeding locations. The collective action can help them herd fish toward shallower waters.
  • Feeding Frenzies: Great Egrets are known to participate in feeding frenzies with other wading birds, especially during times of abundant prey. This behavior allows them to capitalize on the availability of food.
  • Territorial Defense: They are known to defend their nesting territories vigorously against intruders, including other Great Egrets and wading bird species.
  • Predatory Threats: While Great Egrets are skilled predators themselves, they may fall prey to larger birds of prey, such as eagles and owls.
  • Life Cycle: Their life cycle includes stages of courtship, mating, nesting, chick rearing, and migration if applicable. Each stage is marked by specific behaviors and adaptations.
  • Ecosystem Services: Great Egrets play a vital role in controlling populations of aquatic organisms like fish and amphibians. This helps maintain the balance of wetland ecosystems.
  • Wetland Health Indicator: The presence and population health of Great Egrets can serve as indicators of the overall health of wetland habitats.
  • Conservation Efforts: Many organizations and governments work to protect Great Egret populations and their habitats, recognizing their ecological importance.
  • Global Distribution: Great Egrets have a broad global distribution, making them an essential component of wetland ecosystems on multiple continents.
  • Adaptability: These birds have demonstrated adaptability by nesting in some unexpected places, like man-made structures, when natural nesting sites are scarce.


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.


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.

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