Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Great White Egret|
| Ardea alba|
The Great White Egret, White Heron, Common Egret or Great Egret (Ardea alba) is a wading egret, found in most of the tropical and warmer temperate parts of the world, although it is very local in southern Europe and Asia.
Great Egret is partially migratory, with birds moving south from areas with cold winters. It should not be confused with the Great White Heron, which is a white morph of the Great Blue Heron found in Florida.
This species breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes with reed beds or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.
It feeds in shallow water or drier habitats, spearing fish, frogs or insects with its long, sharp bill. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It is a conspicuous species, usually easily seen.
The Great White Egret is a large bird, only slightly smaller than the Great Blue or Grey Herons. It has all white plumage.
Apart from size, it can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet. It also has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks.
In North America, large numbers of these birds were killed around the end of the 19th century so that their plumes could be used to decorate hats. Numbers have since recovered as a result of conservation measures. Its range has expanded as far north as southern Canada. However, in some parts of the southern United States, its numbers have declined due to habitat loss. This bird has been chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society, which was formed in part to prevent birds from being killed for their feathers.
The call at breeding colonies is a loud croaking "krrrk ".
Various authors also identify this species as Egretta alba and Casmoderius alba. However, this species closely resembles the large Ardea herons such as Grey Heron and Great Blue Heron in everything but colour, whereas it shows fewer similarities to the smaller white egrets.
There are four subspecies in various parts of the world, of which the largest is A. a. modesta.
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