Reddish Egrets in Florida

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Reddish Egrets are the rarest, and arguably the most beautiful, of the herons. Once relatively common along the coastlines of Florida in the 19th century, plume hunters nearly eradicated the species from Florida by the early 20th century. Since the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the has been increasing in numbers in Florida, but after nearly 100 years, the population still has not fully recovered. It is estimated that there are less than 400 nesting pairs in the state, a population that may be about one tenth of the population in the mid-19th century. Most today can be found in the Florida Bay and Tampa Bay areas, with some also found at Merritt Island and elsewhere. They can be found in two morphs: a “dark” morph, which is more reddish in color, and a “white” morph.

Reddish Egret, Fort De Soto

White Morph Reddish Egret, Fort De Soto

Aside from their beauty, Reddish Egrets are also known for their feeding habits. Called “canopy feeding” by some, Reddish Egrets are often seen darting to and fro looking for food, and when they strike at their prey, they spread their wings to cast a shadow over the water. This of course makes them enjoyable to watch as well as spectacular to photograph.

Reddish Egret Canopy Feeding, Merritt Island NWR

Reddish Egret Canopy Feeding, Merritt Island NWR

White Morph Reddish Egret, Merritt Island NWR

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Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons, based in Florida, is a lover of nature, landscape, and wildlife photography. Scott became interested in photography in 2001 when he was given his first SLR camera. When he acquired a telephoto lens, he became progressively more interested in birds and other wildlife. Scott enjoys learning about bird habitats and behavior, striving always to take images that are both beautiful and interpretive. Scott believes photography is a great vehicle to help others to appreciate the wonder for the stuff of earth.

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Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons, based in Florida, is a lover of nature, landscape, and wildlife photography. Scott became interested in photography in 2001 when he was given his first SLR camera. When he acquired a telephoto lens, he became progressively more interested in birds and other wildlife. Scott enjoys learning about bird habitats and behavior, striving always to take images that are both beautiful and interpretive. Scott believes photography is a great vehicle to help others to appreciate the wonder for the stuff of earth.

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Nic Slocum

I see them a lot Ken down the Ilen. I often travel down river from Old Court to Baltimore and on the first leg before Inish Beg they are sometimes lined up in the trees. A fabulous bird which is now I believe listed as an Irish native!?

Ken Billington

Nic, you might be interested to know that the Little Egret is well established in West Cork. I go birdwatching just outside Skibbereen on the River Ilen by Ringarogy Island. There’s an old tree on the banks of the River Ilen, which has probably 10 pairs of Little Egret nesting in it each year.

Nic Slocum

Sorry Scott/Ken…should read…have NOT seen them canopy feeding!!

Nic Slocum

Lovely images Scott. We have the little egret here in Ireland and they live alongside the very territorial grey heron but like Ken, I have seen them canopy feeding…I will be watching closely from now on though…just in case. You probably know but the little egret was considered a rare visitor to Ireland until it started to breed here in 1997 finding our usually mild winters acceptable to year round habitation. They have been so successful that they are now found on most coasts of Ireland and in the last 10 years have watched them colonize the coastline. An amazing… Read more »

Ken Billington

In Europe we have grey herons, little egrets and great white egrets but none of these species go in for “Canopy Feeding”. Very interesting article, Scott, with superb images. Just a couple of questions, where do the Reddish Egrets roost? Do they build their nests in colonies in trees like their European cousins?