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What is a Little Egret?

Mandi Raymond
Mandi Raymond

A little egret, the smallest of the egrets, is a bird that has black legs, yellow feet and a long black bill. White in color, this bird can grow to be approximately 26 inches (65 cm) in length, with an average wingspan of nearly 42 inches (106 cm). The tall legs and distinctive plumage create a graceful appearance for the little egret. The bird's exceptionally long legs and yellow feet work well to assist the bird in wandering about in the shallow waters, scaring up prey. Its height allows the bird to spot prey before it can escape.

Its long legs allow the little egret can view the passing prey below and pluck it from the water as it goes by. The bird is also known to stand on one leg and dangle the other yellow foot above the water, luring in its prey. The little egret prefers to hunt alone. The bird can be found in shallow water that is filled with vegetation. It can often be seen imitating the plants in the water to attract prey to the shade created when it hovers over the water.


Frequent visitors to Singapore during the winter months, the little egret can be found in Australia, New Zealand and as far as North America during the warmer months. This bird sets its nest in colonies, and these colonies often include other similar birds that use the shallow water as hunting grounds. The little egret chooses a mating partner, and both parents protect the nest together. The average number of eggs laid are three to five, and the eggs hatch approximately 21 to 25 days later. After hatching from the pale blue green eggs in a layer of down feathers, the young birds will be taken care of by both parents until they are about 40 to 45 days old.

The little egret is listed as threatened on some endangered species lists. Although once in danger because of hunters seeking the little egret's beautiful plumage, the primary reason for endangerment has become the pesticides found in many of the bird's feeding grounds. The environmental conditions of many waterways has made it difficult for the little egret to find healthy food, and although the birds are not listed as endangered in all locations, there is still real danger for many of them.

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