Egrets of Georgia (4 Species to Know)

Egrets are elegant looking wading birds in the same family as herons. There are a four different species of Egrets that live in the North America, each with a different set of features, habits, and lifestyles. All four of these egrets can actually be regularly found in Georgia.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
Identification

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. 

Range

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 stranger breeding locations include 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 herds 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.

Great Egret

Great Egret
Identification

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.

Range

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.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret (Dark Morph)
Reddish Egret (White Morph)
Identification

Reddish Egrets come in two different color variations, a white morph and a dark morph. The white morph is clean white while dark morph birds have a rusty neck and a dark gray body. Both morphs have a pink bill with a black tip.

Range

Reddish Egrets are year-round residents of the coasts of Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and the coasts of Florida. They migrate through the rest of the Gulf Coast states as well.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Reddish Egrets are extremely active hunters compared to most other herons and egrets. They will chase after prey, stir up the substrate with their feet and even create shadows on the water with their wings. Their typical prey is small minnows but they will also eat crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates.

Where to Find This Bird

Look for Reddish Egrets along coastal beaches, salt flats, around barrier islands, and in other saltwater environments with shallow water. In their native range they are fairly common, but they don’t often stray from the ocean, making them a good bird to find in the states bordering the gulf.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
Identification

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.

Range

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.

Summary

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 Georgia.

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