Snowy Egret

Egretta thula
A Snowy Egret specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Smaller (20-27 inches) than North America’s other light-colored herons and egrets, the Snowy Egret is most easily identified by its black bill, black legs, yellow feet, and regal breeding plumes. Other field marks include an all-white body, short tail, and small yellow skin patch on the face. Male and female Snowy Egrets are similar to one another in all seasons. The Snowy Egret breeds along the east coast of the United States north to Maine and locally in the interior southeast and west. Coastal birds are non-migratory, while interior birds migrate to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Pacific coast of California and in the interior from northern Mexico south to Panama. Other non-migratory populations occur along both coasts of Mexico and Central America as well as in the West Indies. Snowy Egrets live in and around small bodies of water. In summer, Snowy Egrets nest in colonies, called ‘rookeries,’ in trees surrounding lakes and ponds. This species utilizes similar habitats during the winter. Snowy Egrets mainly eat fish, but may also take crustaceans and small vertebrates (such as frogs, lizards, and mice) when the opportunity arises. Snowy Egrets may be best observed wading in shallow water, where they may be seen plunging their bills into the water to catch fish. It is also possible to see Snowy Egrets at their rookeries, especially when they return to roost at sunset, or while flying with their feet extended and their necks pulled in. Snowy Egrets are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Formerly rare, now common breeding bird in and around salt marshes. Arrives early in March, nests from late-April to mid-July, leaves by early November. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

Date:  9/8/1930
Collected By:  Wm H Ball
Locality:  Four Mile Run, VA
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  325289

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC45684 Egretta thula (Snowy Egret)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC50904 Egretta thula (Snowy Egret)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC50905 Egretta thula (Snowy Egret)