Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Little Egret

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Egretta garzetta | [authority] Linnaeus, 1766 | [UK] Little Egret | [FR] Aigrette garzette | [DE] Seidenreiher | [ES] Garceta Comun | [NL] Kleine Zilverreiger


Monotypic species


Egretta is a genus of medium-sized herons, mostly breeding in warmer climates. Representatives of this family are found in most of the world, and the Little Egret, as well as being widespread throughout much of the Old World, has now started to colonise the Americas. Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Kolleru, Andhra Pradesh, India.These are typical egrets in shape, long-necked and long-legged. There are few plumage features in common, although several have plumes in breeding plumage; a number of species are either white in all plumages, have a white morph (e.g. Reddish Egret), or have a white juvenile plumage (Little Blue Heron). The breeding habitat of Egretta herons is marshy wetlands in warm countries. They nest in colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs.

Physical charateristics

Little Egret is a small and elegant white egret, showing slender neck, fine pointed black bill and black legs with yellow feet. Adult in breeding plumage has bluish face and reddish lores. We can see two long fine white hindcrown feathers, extending from the nape to the mid-neck. It also has “aigrettes”, long feathers of upper breast and recurved scapular feathers. At this time, Little Egret has greyish base of lower mandible. Feet turn bright yellow-orange, even pinkish for short time. In winter plumage, bill is black, lores are greyish, and feet are pale yellow or greenish-yellow. And it lacks long feathers on nape, and “aigrettes” in scapulars and breast. Eyes are pale yellow. Both sexes are similar. Juvenile resembles adult in winter plumage, with duller or greenish bill and legs, and grey-green feet, less contrasting.

Listen to the sound of Little Egret

[audio: Egret.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 88 cm wingspan max.: 106 cm
size min.: 55 cm size max.: 65 cm
incubation min.: 21 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia, Africa, Oriental Region, Australasia : widespread


Little Egret is found in a wide variety of open inland and coastal wetlands, shallow water around lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries. Little Egret breeds in warm temperate parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Most birds are residents. But northern populations migrate to Africa and Southern Asia. Little Egret starts to colonise the New World, breeding in Bahamas, and seen in Caribbean and Surinam.


Little Egret nests in colonies, with other heron and wetland species. They nest in reedbeds, wetland scrubs or trees near water, up to 20 metres above the ground. Nest is a platform made with twigs or reeds. Male brings material to female which builds the nest. Female lays 3 to 5 pale greenish blue eggs, at intervals of one or two days. Incubation starts with the first egg laid, and lasts about 21 to 25 days, shared by both parents. Each adult sits 3 to 4 hours on the nest, and when it is time to change, both adults fluff their feathers and bow in front of each other, while they utter their grating elongated sound. Chicks hatch covered with white down, with pink bill and legs, turning quickly to bluish-grey. They are fed by both adults, with regurgitated food into their bills. At about three weeks, young leave the nest to move into nearly branches. They are not able to fly, but they are very agile to walk on branches. They perform their first flight with parents at about 5 weeks of age, learning to fly and to hunt in shallow water. They roost with the colony every night until they are independent.

Feeding habits

Little Egret feeds on small fishes, frogs, lizards, worms, crustaceans, molluscs and a wide part of insects.

Video Little Egret


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Egretta garzetta is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder in southern Europe,
which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European
breeding population is relatively small (<94,000 pairs), but increased between 1970- 1990. Although there were declines in a few countries during 1990-2000, populations across most of its European range-including sizeable ones in Spain, France, Italy and Azerbaijan-increased or were stable.
This bird has a wide distribution in the southern parts of Europe and Asia, in northern, eastern and southern Africa, on the Cape Verde Islands, in Indonesia and Australia. European populations winter mainly in northern Africa, but since 1950 an increasing number of individuals remain during the winter along the European coasts of the Mediterranean. The population of the European Union amounts to about 22700 breeding pairs. It is increasing in Spain, France and Italy, decreasing in Greece
Little Egret status Least Concern


Extensive post-breeding dispersal. Palearctic breeders partially migratory: West populations winter around Mediterranean, Middle East and particularly tropical Africa. East populations migrate to South of China, South East Asia and Philippines, although large numbers remain in Japan. Populations of Africa, India and Australia sedentary, with some dispersal or nomadism. Birds ringed in East Australia recovered in New Zealand and New Guinea. Races gularis/schistacea apparently resident and dispersive; accidental to Europe and USA. Race dimorpha strictly sedentary. Migratory populations prone to overshooting in spring.

Distribution map

Little Egret distribution range map


Title Mate and nestling desertion in colonial little egrets
Author(s): Masahiro Fujioka
Abstract: I observed 25 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) nest..[more]..
Source: Auk: Vol. 106, No. 2, April-June, 1989

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Title Notes on the occurrence of Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) in the Americas, with reference to other Palearctic vagrants
Author(s): William L. Murphy
Abstract: The Old World species Egretta garzetta has been ob..[more]..
Source: Colonial Waterbirds 15(1):113-123

download full text (pdf)

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