The Great Egret – A Comon Bird of Florida

by: Davis Yancy Clegg


Great Egret on the nest


While the waters off Amelia Island are filled with much to learn about, the marshes play host to a large percentage of the wildlife population. Many of those species are birds. One of the most common you will see is the Great Egret. Populations – once thriving – were decimated by plume hunters in the late 1800’s. They feathers were considered to be in high fashion for quite some time. Luckily, there was a rapid recovery with their protection becoming a mandate in the early 20th century. There have been records of population increases in the northern grounds, while marshes here in Florida have once again begun to see a decrease in numbers.

Great Egrets nestingIt’s not only the marsh where you may find a glimpse of the Egret. They are also known to make their abodes in ponds, shores, and mud flats. The Egret prefers a habitat that is open in setting, making the marsh along our river tours a perfect setting for the bird. Large estuaries and shallow coastal lagoons are particularly alluring to the Egret. While they normally nest in water-surrounded trees, they do sometimes find sanctuary in thickets some distance from the water. They typically will first begin breeding at the other of two-three years. While they are most usually seen in larger colonies mixed in with other birds, they do sometimes prefer nesting in isolated pairs. Great egrets usually tend to nest very high in trees. Sometimes, their nests are seen a soaring forty feet above the ground. The male will select the nest areas and display himself there, proud and triumphant! At first, this act just drives away all the other birds. Eventually, the females come back around and the courting commences. Courtship displays include calling, a circular display of flight. They also will stand proud, stretching the neck upward and point their beak upward.

The Great Egret forages primarily by wading the quiet waters near nesting areas, waiting for the unsuspecting fish to come along for an easy grab. Their bills are shaped so a rapid thrust will more than do the job. They might be seen feeding in flocks, and are known to be somewhat social in mixing with other species. They flock with other herons, cormorants, sometimes swiping food from smaller birds in the flock. Survival of the fittest at plays in the wild once again! Aside from the obvious fish, the egrets also eat crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, snakes, and aquatic insects. On land and in open fields, they feast on grasshoppers and rodents.

The egrets are majestic in posture, and fearless in their methods of survival. On one of our river tours, you are certain to see a few of these characters lurking around, feeding or courting for their future-nesting partners. This bird, once slaughtered for fashion, has come back strong in numbers to show us how the forces of nature can be bolder than man’s own blundering to stamp it out. Keep your eyes open and catch a snapshot of the symbol of the National Audubon Society.


It is quite common to see this majestic bird from the River Cruise.  

Come check it out and join us on a Shrimping Eco Tour.  This tour is not only educational but also fun for both adults and kids. (continue…)




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