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Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

By C.M.Shorter
Florida Everglades
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
Pictures of Snowy Egrets >>

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is another graceful bird species in the Egret family of wading birds. Smaller in size than both the Common Egret and Great White Egret, Snowy Egrets achieve an average height of 22 to 26 inches, with a wingspan just over 3 ft. Snowy Egrets can be distinguished among the Egret family of wading birds by its exquisite "Snow White" plumage. The Snowy Egret can also be distinguished from other Egrets in this related family of wading birds by its smaller stature, black bill, and yellow feet. Also during mating season - by its yellow lores (the area around the upper mandible) which turns a reddish color during courtship.

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Snowy Egrets are found throughout territory along the Eastern Coast in the swamp, marsh and wetland habitats of the United States. Winter grounds of these birds ranges south from the Carolinas. Highly prized for their plume feathers by the fashion industry, these birds were severely persecuted being hunted to near extinction so these beautiful plumes could adorn lady's hats. Plume hunting was outlawed in the early part of the 20th century and the Snowy Egret was protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Long-legged aquatic feeding birds, both the male and female Snowy Egret are similar in size and appearance. Aquatic foragers they stand in silence waiting for unsuspecting prey to happen by or use their feet like rakes and even natural lures to attract fish, crabs, and frogs. A good part of their diet also comprises lizards and insects.

Breeding only once per year, Snowy Egrets congregate for parental duties in large established colonies often with a mix of other Egret species. They build platform type nests usually about 10 feet off the ground but have been known to nest on the ground when conditions warrant. Females lay 3-5 greenish blue eggs which incubate in about a month when the young Baby Snow Egrets are hatched. Baby birds are quite delicate & fragile looking with their downy cover of fluff. The young Snowy Egrets soon develop the distinctive white shaggy head and tail plumage of an adult.

The Snowy Egret is significant in conservation history. Of all the Egret species, it was the Snowy Egret that paid the greatest price for its exquisite nuptial plumes. This bird's feathers were so highly prized due to their elegant look Snowy Egrets were hunted to very near extinction. Conservationists, determined to put an end to the commercial trade in birds, rallied and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was voted into effect. It decreed that all migratory birds and their parts, including their eggs, nests and feathers were fully protected. Protection was given to many migratory birds including the Black-Footed Albatross, Anhinga, Barn-Owl, Bittern, Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink, Northern Cardinal, Black-Capped Chickadee, California's great Condor, Crane, Cuckoo, the Bald Eagle, Snowy Egret, Ibis, Heron, and the mighty Peregrine Falcon which were all offered Federal protection. Also protected were the Great Blue Heron, House Martin, Hummingbird, the Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, Mallard, Mockingbird, Baltimore Orioles, Osprey, Pelican, Quail Dove, and Roadrunner to name a few. The list continues to include the Rosy-Finch, Sandpiper, Screech Owl, Sea Eagle, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork and Trumpeter Swan who all got a new lease on life. The tables finally turned and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 still governs and protects over 836 species of migratory birds today, almost 100 years after its passage.

More on Florida Everglades:
Florida Everglades | Pictures of Florida Everglades | Map of Florida Everglades | Animals Florida Everglades | Marjory Stoneman Douglas | Everglades Endangered Species
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