Snowy Egret

A white egret with black and yellow legs on a white sand beach.
Snowy egrets have physical adaptations that allow them to catch food easily.

NPS Photo/Willis

The snowy egret is a white heron found along beach shores, wetlands, and estuarine areas including mangroves, saltmarsh pools, and shallow bays at Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Slightly smaller than a great blue heron, snowy egrets have long black legs, yellow feet, white plumes, a wingspan of about 40 inches, and stand about 25 inches tall. These wading birds have s-shaped necks and a pointy black beak to help spear prey.
The snowy egret is native to North, Central, and South America and can be found along the coast and some inland wetlands. This species is found in the United States from northern California, to Florida

Snowy egrets wade through freshwater and saltwater waiting for insects, fish, crabs, frogs, snakes, snails, and lizards to prey on. Occasionally egrets will fly over open fields searching for small rodents. Their long necks, sharp pointed beaks, and large feet help egrets spear and gather prey.

Snowy egrets nest in colonies on mudflats, beaches, and wetlands. The male selects a nest site near a tree or shrub and displays by raising his plumes, pointing his bill straight up, bobbing his head, and calling to attract a mate. Both sexes build a flat and shallow nest using sticks. In late March/early April, females lay three to five pale blue/green eggs and both parents take turns with incubation. About 20-24 days later, the eggs will hatch.

Snowy egrets were once almost hunted to extinction in the late 1800s for their white plumes used to make women’s clothing and hats. Today, coastal development, recreational disturbance at foraging and breeding sites, and habit degradation are all concerns for egret populations. Egrets are also at risk for habitat destruction from pesticides and other contaminants that pollute fragile estuaries and wetlands.

“Snowy Egret.” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Snowy Egret.” Audubon: Guide to North American Birds.
“Snowy Egret Identification.” The Cornell Lab: All About Birds.

Last updated: April 29, 2020

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