110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Snowy egrets form colonies at nesting time
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jul 1, 2013 - 3:17:21pm
An angelic-looking snowy egret was devilishly into mischief in Ponce Inlet in January. The egret saw that a bucket of bait was in the back of a car on the beach — and the back was up — so the egret tried to get himself a good meal. Since the bucket had a lid, the bird realized he couldn't grab a snack here, and flew away. It was all funny to watch!
Snowy egrets are 24 inches long, have a 41-inch wingspan, and weigh only 13 ounces. Their plumage is all white, their eyes are yellow, and so are their lores (the skin around the eyes). These slender birds have a long thin neck, long black legs and yellow feet, all of which makes them quite easy to identify.
These beautiful birds were close to extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they were being killed for their feathers, which were mainly used in women's hats. We can be thankful that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 made this practice illegal, and now the population is flourishing. This treaty protects all migratory birds. It is illegal to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, sell, or export — the list goes on and is quite thorough.
At breeding time, the male snowy egret collects nesting material of reeds and twigs, and the female builds the nest on a bush or tree close to the ground or on the ground itself. She lays three to five blue eggs, and when the chicks hatch, both parents care for them. Snowy egrets form colonies at nesting time, which reduces the chance that predators will destroy them.
The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine has a wonderful bird rookery where many kinds of birds, including snowy egrets, freely nest annually. The alligators are in captivity there, and swim under the trees that hold nests.
Snowy egrets dwell in marshes, ponds, swamps, mud flats and coastal regions throughout most of the U.S. and south all the way to southern South America. The birds' diet is crustaceans, insects, fish, snakes, lizards, frogs and aquatic vegetation. Snowy egrets usually stir the water with one foot and then pursue whatever fish or other animals come to the surface. Of course, easier ways of finding food, like snatching fish from a bait bucket, are an option too!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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