Monday, January 11, 2010

At the pond... Great Egret

Great EgretGreat Egret, Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon on 22 October 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Hunted in the Pacific Northwest nearly to extirpation for their distinctive breeding plumes, this heron nested for most of the 20th century only in Malheur NWR and the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and in southern Idaho. It was rare elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. For instance, only the second western Oregon Great Egret was found near Portland in 1958. The 1953 book, Birds of Washington State, by Jewett, Taylor, Shaw, and Aldrich recorded no Great Egrets in Washington State up to that time.

Today, however, this large white egret nests more widely in Oregon, including a small colony on the coast near Coos Bay. It also nests in southeastern Washington. In fall, birds disperse widley west of the Cascades. Fall concentrations near Portland today may reach over 100 birds at favored wetlands, such as the Smith & Bybee Lakes. Post-breeding dispersal can sometimes send birds as far as southern British Columbia.

Commonly called "white cranes" by non-birders, egrets and herons are structurally quite different from cranes. Among the obvious differences in flight, the cranes hold their neck straight out, while herons and egrets kink their neck so that their head rests on their shoulders and their long neck loops underneath.

Many people are surprised to see these birds perched high up in trees. But this is quite natural, as they nest in trees. Colonies of nesting birds build their stick nests high up in trees.

The main food of these birds is fish and frogs they grab while they wade slowly in ponds and flooded agricultural fields.

Not quite as large as Great Blue Herons, they are much larger than two other white egrets in the Pacific NW. The smaller Snowy Egret has black bill and dark legs with yellow feet. The Cattle Egret is smaller yet.


  1. There are some birds that you just never get tired of seeing. The Great Egret is absolutely on that list.

  2. Hello! I do not speak good English, do not write much but now I'm going to do because it's really fascinating, "your world". The scenery so beautiful you post, pictures, your writing is really interesting and beautiful

    Have a beautiful and happy 2010!

    Greetings, Demi

  3. Just saw one of these in Portland, OR today. Beautiful bird!