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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Snowy Egret -- Egretta thula

RANGE: Breeds from northern California and Montana south to central and eastern Texas, along the lower Mississippi Valley, and from Maine south along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to South America. After breeding, disperses north to Oregon, Nebraska, Great Lakes, and Atlantic Canada. Winters from northern California, southwestern Arizona, the Gulf Coast, and coastal South Carolina south throughout the breeding range.

STATUS: Common; breeding range expanding northward.

HABITAT: Inhabits ponds; borders of lakes; freshwater, brackish, and saltwater marshes and swamps; stream courses; tidal flats; rice fields; and sometimes dry fields, where it associates with cattle.

NEST: Nests in colonies (many coastal), sometimes with thousands of pairs or in smaller colonies with other herons, ibises, cormorants, and anhingas, or even singly. In western United States, commonly nests on the ground in cattail marshes; in other areas, may nest up to 30 feet high in trees and shrubs.

FOOD: Forages by rushing about and shuffling its feet in shallow water to flush its prey out of hiding. Consumes small fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, shrimp, fiddler crabs, crayfish, grasshoppers, cutworms, and aquatic insects.

REFERENCES: Grinnell and Miller 1944, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1962, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980.

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