Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Great Egret

Ardea alba
Are you ready to get confused? Here we go.
This is the Great Egret. Or Great White Egret. Or Great White Heron. It looks like a Snowy Egret, but it's bigger. It also has the same common name as a Floridian color variation of the Great Blue Heron... which is white... and is also called the Great White Heron.

But thankfully we have scientific names! So no matter what you call today's bird, Ardea alba is how it will always be known to science... well, unless they find some weird discrepancy down the road that requires reclassification. But let's not add on to the confusion any more...

For the sake of this post, we'll go with "Great Egret," since they are quite large and majestic. They have a distribution that spans most of the world, with some populations living in a range year round, and some migrating North and South seasonally.

Great Egrets nest in large colonies, often sharing the space with other bird species. They build their large nests up in the trees, and parents are monogamous. Clutches of three or four eggs are the most common, but unfortunately it is rare for all chicks to survive to adulthood. Aggression between offspring is incredibly common, and the larger chicks will often kill their smaller siblings in order to receive more food.

Like many beautifully plumed birds in North America, Great Egrets saw a population dip in the late 19th century, due to the popularity of feathers in womens' hats. Conservation measures have allowed the North American Egrets to rebound, and in 1953 the Great Egret was chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Southern Hemisphere
Size : Height up to 3.3ft (1m), Wingspan up to 5ft (1.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Ardeidae -- Genus : Ardea -- Species : A. alba

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