Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

The Little Egret is a relatively small, white heron weighing about 500g with a wingspan of around a metre and characteristic yellow toes, believed to aid in attracting prey to within striking range.

Little Egrets forage singly or in small groups in shallow, open wetlands, on the margins of rivers, dams, lakes, lagoons and waterlogged pastures and agricultural fields, and in the intertidal belt along the coast. They feed mostly on small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, insects and other invertebrates

Breeding in this species coincides with the rainy season (in South Africa mostly the summer months), usually nesting in colonies numbering dozens up to thousands of pairs and often in association with other species of egret, heron, ibis and cormorant. They build their nests of sticks on cliffs, in reedbeds or trees, usually over the water, or on the ground on safe islands. Clutches of up to 5 eggs are incubated by both parents for a little over 3 weeks, and the chicks fledge at about 6 weeks old.

The IUCN estimates that there may be over 3-million (and the population is growing) Little Egrets distributed over Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Vagrants have become established in the Caribbean and now appear to be spreading into North and South America. In South Africa the Little Egret is a common resident (subject to local movements to the coast during winter) all over the country, with the exception of the arid Northern Cape where it is mostly seen only along the course of the Orange River.

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