Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens

  • © Guillermo Armenteros

The Reddish Egret is a medium-size (76 cm length) habitat specialist rarely found more than a short distance from ocean or bay margins. Most are seen on sandy beaches, mud flats, or in shallow, coastal lagoons and birds that appear even a few miles inland are usually referred to as strays or vagrants. Like a number of other herons and egrets, this species is polymorphic, with a dark form, a snow white form, and occasional pied or intermediate birds. Percentages of dark or light birds vary geographically. Nest mates may exhibit any of these color morphs. Dark morph adults are slaty gray with long, shaggy, maroon head and neck feathers. Adults of all morphs have gray legs and a black-tipped pink bill. Immature birds are pale grey or pinkish grey with grey legs and bill, and may present identification challenges. Reddish Egrets can often be identified at great distances by their distinctive feeding behavior. This involves a combination of moves including weaving from side to side in a manner that has been compared to a drunken sailor. Feeding birds will jump, run, and pop their wings into an arc—usually termed canopy feeding—that offers unsuspecting prey a shadow to hide under. Occasionally birds in flight will strike at prey. Certain individuals become habituated to beaches or docks where humans are fishing, and steal live fishes or shrimp from bait cans. Nests of Reddish Egrets are often in mixed colonies of other large waders. They are usually located on islands and placed in mangroves, cacti, various low shrubs, or on the ground. Populations may be resident or migratory.

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© Andrew Spencer

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: