Tag Archives: Egretta thula

GONE CRAB FISHIN’ FOR DINNER -SNOWY EGRET AT THE CREEK

Quietly slipping through the shallow creek water, the graceful Snowy Egret would stop every now and then to shake its leg. Stirring up the sandy flat in hopes of awakening a sleeping crab or fish, the elegant bird would then violently pierce the water with its dagger like beak, more often than not coming up empty billed.

Success!

Watching the brilliant yellow-footed Snowy Egret foraging at the creek for diner I was reminded of how Piping Plovers have a similar foraging technique, pattering their (much smaller) feet, also in hopes of disturbing unsuspecting prey.

Snowy Egrets are sometimes described as piscivorous (a diet that consist largely of fish), however they eat a wide variety aquatic foods such as jellyfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects. Ospreys are a better example of a piscivorous bird species.

The bird in the photos above is in full breeding plumage. Their stunning aigrettes are the reason they were nearly brought to extinction by plume hunters, and one of the main reasons for the creation and passing of the century old Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

How to tell the difference between a Showy Egret and Great Egret: Snowy Egrets have yellow feet and black bills, while Great Egrets have yellow bills and black feet. As the name suggests, Great Egrets are the larger of the two. Great Egrets

GONE FISHIN’ -THE ONE THAT DIDN’T GET AWAY

Snowy Egret in the creek this morning, and Coyote, too.

Snowy Egrets are the most animated of hunting herons and this one did not disappoint, tossing his minnows in the air, flapping his wings while leaping from rock to rock, stirring the sand with his bright cadmium yellow feet, dip diving, and shimmy shaking his feathers.

Our Good Harbor Beach PiPl Family is thriving. Here’s another morsel that didn’t get away. More on the PiPls on Friday 🙂Seventeen-day old Piping Plover Chicks

SNOWY EGRET DISGUISE

Snowy Egret well-camouflaged while fishing and preening with a flock of gulls.

Snowy Egrets Flight

I often think of this quote from the Dalai Lama when watching birds and butterflies in flight – “give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.”

The clip of the Snowy Egrets in flight was shot on a still and hazy summer afternoon, late in the day after the birds had been foraging in the marsh. As soon as the Egret flew above the tree line, the atmosphere became clearer and I imagined it was quiet and peaceful in the windless treetops. The Egret was joined by four more Snowies as they headed off to their night roost.

A SUMMER SIEGE

A congregation of egrets has many collective names including skewer, siege, sedge, wedge, and congregation. I like the names siege and congregation and the above photo shows a siege of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets preening after a day of fishing at the Jones River Salt Marsh.

Attention!

The always animated Snowy Egret

SNOWY EGRETS SYNCHRONIZED BATHING

Four Snowy Egrets preening and one turtle photobombing

A FINE FROGGY LUNCH FOR A LITTLE BLUE HERON

First hatch year Little Blue Heron eating an American Bullfrog

Why is this not so little white heron called a Little Blue Heron? Compared to a Great Blue Heron, it is relatively smaller. As to the entirely white plumage, this is a first hatch year Little Blue in its white phase. In the second spring and summer, the white feathers will gradually be replaced by beautiful slate blue feathers, giving the bird a temporary and unique calico appearance.

Little Blue herons are closely related to Snowy Egrets and the white immature morphs feed alongside the Snowys. You can tell them apart easily not only by bill and feet, but by their feeding habits. Snowy Egrets forage with a great deal of flourish, agitating the water with their feet, and vigorously fluttering, flapping, and flying along the shoreline. Little Blue Herons are stealth hunters, moving with slow deliberation before executing an exacting capture.

Minnow Hullabaloo

What is happening here? A hungry swim of cormorants have pushed a stream of bait fish towards the shallow shore waters. The minnows are met by equally as hungry Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets waiting on the rocks. I’ve watched many egrets eat prey and they often toss it about in the air for half a minute before swallowing whole, I think to line it up so the fish or frog goes straight down its gullet. At that very moment when the egrets are adjusting their catch, the gulls swoop in and try to snatch the minnows from the egrets.

This scene was filmed at Niles Beach. My friend Nancy shares that she has observed the egret and cormorant feeding relationship many mornings over by where she lives on the Annisquam River.

YIKES! SEAGULL SWALLOWS A WHOLE LOBSTER!

Photographing shorebirds early today and this Homie arrives on the scene, loudly announcing his catch. Before I could turn on my movie camera, he swallowed the whole lobster, in one big gulp! You could see the sharp edges of the lobster as it went down his gullet. I predict a Homie with a tummy ache.

The tremendous variety of seaweed currently covering Pebble Beach captures a wealth of sustenance for migrating shorebirds (and Homies).

Sanderlings, Sandpipers, Semiplamated Plovers, and one Snowy Egret at Pebble Beach today, September 12, 2017.

How to Quickly Tell the Difference Between a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret

Often asked this question, I thought it would be helpful to post the answer again, especially at this time of year when we see numerous numbers foraging in our marshes and along the shore. Both species of birds breed on Cape Ann and the coast of Massachusetts.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -2 copyright Kim Smith

The first clue is size. Snowy Egrets are small, about the size of the Mallard Duck. Remember the letter S for small and snowy. Great Egrets are much larger, nearly identical in size to that of the Great Blue Heron.

Great Egret Ardea alba copyright Kim Smith

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egrets have  black feet and yellow bills. Snowy Egrets have reverse coloring, yellow feet and black bills.

 

Snowy Egret Egretta thula copyright Kim Smith

Great Egrets stand very still while fishing. Snowy Egrets are wonderfully animated when foraging; they run quickly, walk determinedly, fly, and swish their feet around to stir up fish.

Snowy Egret Encounter

Snowy Egret Egretta thula copyright Kim SmithIt’s not often that a wild bird permits such a close encounter. The Snowy Egret was drinking, feeding, and bathing at the pond edge. At one point a noisy family appeared and began throwing stones into the water. All the Mallards swam toward the far end of the pond and the egret retreated up into the trees. As soon as the family departed, the ducks and Snowy returned to the beach, resuming business as usual.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -12 copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egrets forage on mostly aquatic animals including frogs, fish, crustaceans, worms, and insects. The vivid yellow feet are often used to probe in the mud for prey.

Running back and forth along the shoreline while hunting, several times plunging in and becoming completely submerged.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -14copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egret Egretta thula -15 copyright Kim SmithDuring breeding season the Snowy Egret develops beautiful wispy curving plumes on its head and back. A great deal of time was spent smoothing and arranging its feathers.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -13 copyright Kim SmithSlender and elegant, the Snowy appeared smaller than a duck when its neck was tucked in.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -21 copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egret Egretta thula -11 copyright Kim SmithSpiraling to dry its feathers.

Heron feet copyright Kim Smith

 

Birds of New England: How to Tell the Difference Between the Snowy Egret and the Great Egret

Great egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Great Egret in flight

A quick and easy reference on how tell the difference between the Snowy and Great Egrets, both white and both often times found feeding in the marsh and tide pools together: The Great Egret is greater in size and has a bright yellow bill, with black legs and black feet. The smaller Snowy Egret has the opposite markings, with unmistakeable cadmium yellow feet and a black bill.

Great Egret Snowwy Egret how to tell the difference ©Kim Smith 2014Snowy Egret and Great Egret

In the above photo taken this morning, the egrets were too far away for my camera’s lens to get a really clear picture however, when cropped, you can see a side-by-side comparison. The Snowy Egret, with black bill and bright yellow feet, is flying in the background and the Great Egret, with black feet and yellow bill, is perched in the foreground.

Great Egret lobster Cove Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Great Egret Lobster Cove

More posts about Great Egret and Snowy Egrets: BIRDS OF CAPE ANN: GREAT EGRET VS. GREAT EGRET BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR FOGGY MORNING SUNRISE, SNOWY EGRET, AND WHIMBRELS

Birds of New England: Great Egret vs. Great Egret

Great Egret Gloucester - ©Kim Smith 2013Great Egret (Ardea alba)

On a gorgeous dawn this past season I filmed an epic battle between two, possibly three, Great Egrets at the Good Harbor Beach marsh. The battle lasted nearly ten minutes with the defending egret aggressively flying lower and beneath the intruder, preventing it from landing anywhere on the marsh.

Great Egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2013Great Egrets have very interesting breeding behavior in that the male selects the nesting site and builds a platform nest of sticks and twigs in a tree, shrub, or on the ground near a marsh,  prior to selecting a mate. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks, and both male and female vigorously defend the nesting territory. Perhaps that is what I had observed, a male and/or female defending their nesting site.

Great Egret Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2013The Good Harbor Beach victor first surveyed the marsh from his perch on the adjacent cottage and, after determining his foe was defeated, swooped to the tide pool below to feed peaceably alonsgide the Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron Great Egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2013Great Blue Heron and Great Egret

How do you tell the difference quickly between a Great Egret and Snowy Egret? If you saw the two species side-by-side it would be easy as the Great Egret is nearly a third as large as the Snowy Egret. I don’t often see them together so the easiest way for me to tell them apart is to remember that the smaller Snowy Egret has brilliant cadmium yellow feet and a black bill. The Great Egret has black feet and a yellow-orange bill.

Snow Egret ©Kim Smith 2013Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

Good Harbor Beach Marsh ©Kim Smith 2013Good Harbor Beach Marsh Battleground

Beautiful Good Harbor Foggy Morning Sunrise, Snowy Egret, and Whimbrels

Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2013Good Harbor Beach Sunrise -2 ©Kim Smith 2013.

The sunrise in the lifting fog at Good Harbor Beach looked at times more like a moonrise.

Snow Egret Good Harbor Beach Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2013.Whimbrel Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2013.A lone Snowy Egret was eating and fluffing its feathers and a pair of Whimbrels (at least I think they were Whimbrels) were fishing and bathing along the tide pool edges.

Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2013. copyGood H -4arbor Beach Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2013.Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Good Harbor Beach Snowy Egret
 Feeding at Dawn

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is easily distinguished from the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) by its smaller size, plume of feathers atop its head, and bright, sunny yellow feet. The Snowy Egret is about 24 inches long and weighs approximately 13 ounces. The Great Egret is roughly 37-40 inches long and weighs about 35 ounces. Plume hunters for the millinery trade hunted both species of egrets to near extinction by the turn of the previous century. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Snowy is protected by US law and the population has rebounded.

The Snowy Egret’s diet is diverse, consisting primarily of shrimps, snails, small fish, frogs, and aquatic insects. Snowys stalk prey in shallow water, and in the video, you can see it flushing prey into view by shaking and shuffling its feet. While filming (see last half minute of video), the Snowy stepped out of the water, turned gracefully towards the camera, and stood for a moment–providing more than a quick glimpse of it’s substantial, bright cadmium lemon feet.

 

Luminous silvery light