The Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) is a small white heron. It is the Old World counterpart to the very similar New World Snowy Egret.Depending on authority, two or three subspecies of Little Egret are currently accepted:-
- Egretta garzetta garzetta – Europe, Africa, and most of Asia except the southeast
- Egretta garzetta nigripes – Indonesia east to New Guinea
- Egretta garzetta immaculata – Australia and (non-breeding) New Zealand, often considered synonymous with E. g. nigripes
Three other egret taxa have at times been classified as subspecies of the Little Egret in the past but are now regarded as two separate species. These are the Western Reef HeronEgretta gularis which occurs on the coastline of West Africa (Egretta gularis gularis) and from the Red Sea to India (Egretta gularis schistacea), and the Dimorphic Egret Egretta dimorpha, found in East Africa, Madagascar, the Comoros and the Aldabra Islands.The adult Little Egret is 55–65 cm long with an 88–106 cm wingspan, and weighs 350–550 grams. Its plumage is all white. The subspecies garzetta has long black legs with yellow feet and a slim black bill. In the breeding season, the adult has two long nape plumes and gauzy plumes on the back and breast, and the bare skin between the bill and eyes becomes red or blue. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet. has yellow feet and a bare patch of grey-green skin between the bill and eyes. The subspecies nigripes differs in having yellow skin between the bill and eye, and blackish feet.Little Egrets are mostly silent but make various croaking and bubbling calls at their breeding colonies and produce a harsh alarm call when disturbed.Its breeding distribution is in wetlands in warm temperate to tropical parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. In warmer locations, most birds are permanent residents; northern populations, including many European birds, migrate to Africa and southern Asia. They may also wander north in late summer after the breeding season, which may have assisted its current range expansion. Globally, the Little Egret is not listed as a threatened species.
Behavior, feeding and habitat
The Little Egret has now started to colonise the New World. The first record there was on Barbados in April 1954. It began breeding on the island in 1994. Birds are seen with increasing regularity and have occurred from Suriname and Brazil in the south to Newfoundland and Quebec in the north. Birds on the east coast of North America are thought to have moved north with Snowy Egrets from the Caribbean. In June 2011, a little egret was spotted in Maine, in the Scarborough Marsh, near the Audubon Center. The Little Egret nests in colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs or in a reedbed or bamboo grove. In some locations such as the Cape Verde Islands, they nest on cliffs. Pairs defend a small breeding territory, usually extending around 3–4 m from the nest. The three to five eggs are incubated by both adults for 21–25 days to hatching. They are oval in shape and have a pale, non-glossy, blue-green colour. The young birds are covered in white down feathers, are cared for by both parents and fledge after 40 to 45 days.
Little Egrets eat fish, insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles. They stalk their prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling its feet to disturb small fish. They may also stand still and wait to ambush prey.
Little egret is another common egret after Pond Heron, that is observed in most of the places during my birding trips. Prominently present in wetlands, fields and backwaters. I have used a Canon EF 75-300mm iii lens for the first two images and the last three have been photographed using a Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM lens with a Tamron 1.4x extender, mounted on my Canon EOS 7D. I am thankful to mother nature that I find Little Egret almost in every trip to the coast, backwater or wetlands. Its my friends Ajith Kamath, Ranganath Bhat and Dr.Krishna Mohan, who update me & my knowledge, everytime during my Birding Sundays.