Egrets - Stately Stalker
By June McConnell
Two species of this white heron can be observed on any of the lakes in Colliers Reserve, the Great and Snowy egret. These white herons are methodical, stalking hunters, seeking their prey in the shallow wetlands, salt marshes and shallow lake margins. The bird coils its sinewy neck, ready to spear prey, which includes fish, aquatic invertebrates and reptiles. During the drier months, the bird will stalk small mammals, snails and nesting birds. The vegetation that they eat is comprised mostly of algae or plankton.Because they eat both small vertebrates and vegetation, they fall into the omnivore category.
Great Egrets stand about 40 inches tall, with long black legs and yellow bill. Breeding birds possess striking green flesh parts around the eyes, and long flowing plumes, called aigrettes. They usually nest with large numbers of other wading birds in thick swamps dominated by low bushes and /or large trees and on mangrove-covered coastal islands. They live in colonies in nesting areas and the breeding season extends from January through June. The females use their plumes to attract a male.After mating, the female lays 3 to 4 pale, blue-green eggs in a shallow stick nest and the babies hatch in 24 days.
Snowy Egrets are distinguished from the Great egret by its smaller size: 22 to 26 inches tall. It too, has all white plumage, black bill, black legs and yellow feet. Like its larger cousin its food consists primarily of small fish, crustaceans and insects. Nesting begins in March or April and continues till August. Two to five light blue eggs are laid in a loosely constructed stick and twig nest. Both species have recovered from near extinction through intensive conservation efforts and they are now abundant and widespread in Florida.