Great Egret

Ardea alba




Bitterns, Herons and Egrets (Ardeidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale blue or light blue green.

Number of Eggs:

1 - 6

Incubation Days:

23 - 26

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

Nest is typically 10 to 40 feet above ground, in trees or shrubs.

Nest Material:

Made of sticks and lined with fine materials.


Some migrate



Great Egret: Large white heron with the characteristic S shaped long neck. Bill is orange. Facial skin is bare and extends behind the yellow eyes. Legs and feet are black. Long feather plumes extend from the back to beyond the tail. Winter adult has all yellow bill and dull green facial skin; lacks ornamental plumes. Sexes are similar. Juvenile similar to winter adult, yellow bill has black tip. Races separated by coloration of bare parts, varying amounts of red and black on legs and bill during breeding season.

Range and Habitat

Great Egret: Breeds from Washington to western Mexico and from Manitoba to the Mississippi Valley and southeast U.S.; also occurs along the Atlantic coast north to southern New England. Winters in Oregon south through the southwest, Texas, and Gulf coast states to Mexico, and on the Atlantic coast north to New Jersey. Prefers fresh and salt marshes, marshy ponds, and tidal flats.

Breeding and Nesting

Great Egret: These egrets are seasonally monogamous. They often nest in colonies. One to six pale blue or blue green eggs are laid in a nest constructed of sticks, twigs and stems of marsh plants with little or no lining. It is built in a medium-sized tree 20 to 40 feet above the ground. Incubation ranges from 23 to 26 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Great Egret: These egrets feed mainly on crayfish, shrimp, aquatic insects, frogs, fish, crabs and snails. Occasionally they eat lizards, snakes, salamanders, mice and moles. Usually they forage diurnally in various aquatic habitats, primarily by walking slowly. They also regularly use stand-and-wait and peering techniques. Adults drink both salt and fresh water.


Great Egret: Produces a loud, low-pitched, hoarse croak. Alarm call is a fast "cuk-cuk-cuk."

Similar Species

Other all-white egrets in this range are much smaller, under 6' tall.

Large, conspicuous, showy feathers.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X