Great Egrets are huge, elegant birds that frequent wetlands and shores of the river and lakes in summer. They are not often seen in our area of North Central PA, but one was visiting a friend’s wetlands and I was able to put in with the kayak and get close shots of this awesome bird! Like other herons and egrets, they will watch for fish or frogs in the water and like lightning, spear them through or grab them with their dagger-like beak.
This Great Egret may look silly way up high on top of the tree where he is perched, but actually, Great Egrets will nest as high as 100 feet up in a tree along with others in their colony. They make a large stick nest about 3 feet wide and a foot deep, and will not reuse the nest the next year.
Unlike other all-white egrets, Great Egrets sport a yellow beak and all-black legs and feet. They fly with their necks crooked close to their bodies.
During breeding season, the Great Egret is even lovelier, with long lacy plumes called aigrettes. During the late 1800’s, this bird was almost driven to extinction for its feathers, sold for ladies’ hats! Since killing them was outlawed, they have since made a come-back in spite of habitat loss.
Unbelievably, this beautiful bird did not see me in my boat as a threat at all, and actually came out of the tall tree, right towards me, landing so close that I couldn’t get him all in the picture! He let me slowly back up to be able to fill the frame, without showing any agitation.
I watched as he slowly, painstakingly, stalked his prey. Occasionally, he swiftly jabbed down into the water, sometimes coming up with a small impaled fish. Frogs, large insects like grasshoppers, and dragonflies are also on the menu.
Briefly surveying his kingdom from a higher perch.
More information can be found at All About Birds.