Egrets of Wisconsin (3 Species to Know)

Egrets are elegant looking wading birds. There are a few different species of Egrets that live in the United States and 3 species that can be found in Wisconsin

Cattle Egret (Uncommon)

Cattle Egret

Cattle egrets are medium sized white birds with a yellow bill, yellow legs and feet, and yellowish green coloration behind their eye. Breeding adults have peach coloration on their head, wings, and underside while nonbreeding adults are pure white. 


Cattle Egrets are actually native to Africa but at some point made their way over to South America and then eventually spread north into Central America, Mexico, and the United States. In the US, they can be found year round in the Gulf Coast and some of the Southwestern states. In spring, they migrate north and breed in the Southeastern United States as well as seemingly random other parts of the country. Some of these more strange breeding locations are parts of the Dakotas, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, and even parts of Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Cattle Egrets have a widely varied diet which includes small mammals, amphibians, lizards, and even other birds. The majority of their diet however, is comprised of insects. Cattle Egrets have a habit of spending time near heards of cattle that kick up insects such as crickets and grasshoppers as they graze. The Egrets will also forage near heavy machinery in farm fields for the same reason. This species will feed alone or in large groups.

Where to Find This Bird

Cattle Egrets can be found in open fields, typically near grazing cattle. They can also be found on the edges of marshes and swamps. Sometimes, extremely large numbers of Cattle Egrets gather together to forage or roost.

In Wisconsin, Cattle Egrets are somewhat rare but can be found in some select places on an annual basis. Farms around Lake Winnebago are good places to find Cattle Egrets where they will most likely be in the fields. They also sometimes show up around Horicon Marsh but not every year.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great egrets are large heron-shaped birds with a long neck. They are pure white with black legs. a yellow bill, and green coloration from the bill to the eye. They can also have more of a yellowish color behind their eye. Out of all of the egret species that live in the state, the aptly named Great Egret is the largest.


Great Egrets live in South and Central America year round. They are also year long residents of the coasts of Mexico, both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the United States, and parts of California. In spring, they migrate north and breed in parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri along with other states in the region in addition to parts of Oregon.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Great Egrets are wading birds which means they will walk in shallow water and search for food. Their preferred food sources are small fish, frogs, small mammals, aquatic invertebrates, and essentially any living creature that they can get down their throat.

Where to Find This Bird

Great Egrets can be found in places with slow moving or even standing water. They can be readily spotted standing on the edges of ponds, in shallow marshes, and in coastal estuaries. They are also common in man-made canals and in lakes.

Snowy Egret (Rare)

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets are relatively small wading birds that are clean white with a black bill and black legs. They have yellow behind the bill and also have distinctive and noticeable yellow feet. They are significantly smaller than Great Egrets, so if the two are in the same vicinity, they are easy to tell apart based on size.


Snowy Egrets are year round residents of South America, the Carribean Islands, Cuba, the coasts of Mexico, the Southwestern United States, The Gulf Coast, and the Southeastern Coast of the United States. Some of the population migrates north into the United States, most notably farther up the Atlantic Coast, and the Southwestern states. During migration, Snowy Egrets can be found in a wide variety of places in the United States including the Midwest.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Snowy Egrets feed primarily on aquatic creatures such as fish, frogs, and crustaceans among others. They will feed in both marine and freshwater environments, and typically catch prey by wading into the water and stirring up small creatures with their feet.

Where to Find This Bird

The best places to find Snowy Egrets are along ocean coastlines with shallow water. These birds can typically be seen wading into the water and searching for food. They can also be found inland in marshes and other places with shallow water and mudflats.

In Wisconsin, Snowy Egrets are rare but annual visitors. They sometimes show up at Horicon Marsh, but can also sometimes be found along rivers and the coasts of the Great Lakes.


Egrets are quite beautiful birds that can be fun to observe as they go about their daily lives. Knowing the species that are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the egrets of Wisconsin.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel

2 thoughts on “Egrets of Wisconsin (3 Species to Know)”

  1. Hi Guys,

    Thanks for posting the videos and sending the emails. Here in Hong Kong, I miss Midwest birding.

    I spent many summer vacations in Marinette County. One of the treats of these trips was listening to whippoorwills every night. This was in the 60’s and 70’s. Now, I rarely hear them. I don’t see many nighthawks either. Are there areas in Wisconsin where these birds still reside?

    Best regards,

    Thomas K

    Sent from my iPhone


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