Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the “Snowy Egret”
Aug 27, 2015 11:43AM
By Paul Spear
Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the “Bird of the Week”. The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird. This week’s bird is the “Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).)”.
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“Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the “Snowy Egret”
This week's "Bird of the Week" is the snowy egret (Egretta thula). The snowy egret, although a large bird, is a considered to be a small white heron. Once nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage used in women's hats, this beautiful bird is now commonly seen in our own Tijuana Estuary. Adults are typically 24 inches long and weigh 0.827 lb They have a slim black bill and long black legs with yellow feet. The area of the upper bill, in front of the eyes, is yellow but turns red during the breeding season, when the adults also gain recurved plumes on the back, making for a "shaggy" effect. The juvenile looks similar to the adult, but the base of the bill is paler, and a green or yellow line runs down the back of the legs.
Snowy Egrets nest in colonies on thick vegetation in isolated places—such as barrier islands, dredge-spoil islands, salt marsh islands, swamps, and marshes. They often change location from year to year. During the breeding season Snowy Egrets feed in estuaries, salt marshes, tidal channels, shallow bays, and mangroves. They winter in mangroves, saltwater lagoons, freshwater swamps, grassy ponds, and temporary pools, and forage on beaches, shallow reefs, and wet fields.
The Snowy Egret eats mostly aquatic animals, including fish, frogs, worms, crustaceans, and insects. It often uses its bright yellow feet to paddle in the water or probe in the mud, rounding up prey before striking with its bill. Snowy Egrets feed while standing, walking, running, or hopping, and they may vibrate their bills, sway their heads, or flick their wings as part of prey gathering. They even forage while hovering. Snowy Egrets forage in salt marsh pools, tidal channels, tidal flats, freshwater marshes, swamps, ocean inlets, and lake edges, usually preferring brackish or marine habitats with shallow water. Other foraging water birds often assemble around them to form mixed-species foraging groups.
Snowy egrets are a delight to see, and can be easily spotted in the Estuary. Get out for a walk or bike ride on the many scenic trails throughout our terrific Tijuana Estuary.