One of Marylandís most beautiful waterbirds, the snowy egret is an entirely white feathered, medium-sized wader common to the Chesapeake Bay and coastal areas. Similar in appearance to but smaller than its cousin the great egret, snowy egrets are most easily recognizable by the delicate, lacy plumes they sport on their heads, necks and backs. They have black legs with bright yellow feet and slender black bills with a yellow upper portion that turns red during the breeding season. Male and female snowy egrets look alike.
Snowy egrets are considered colonial waterbirds as they commonly nest in large colonies with other wading birds. They breed once a year and females lay three to five greenish-blue eggs that hatch in 21 to 28 days. Their platform-like nests are built primarily of twigs and are located in low tree canopies or along the ground. Snowy egrets can be found in marshes, swamps, shorelines, mudflats and ponds. They usually hold their necks in an "s" curve while in flight.
In the latter part of the 19th century, snowy egret plumes were very popular on ladiesí hats, and the birds were hunted nearly to the point of extinction. While populations rebounded through the 20th century, colonial waterbirds such as the snowy egret are still considered Wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need and DNRís Natural Heritage Program monitors their populations closely.
Snowy egrets are found along much of the East Coast, wintering from the Carolinas southward. Their main foods are fish, crabs, amphibians, and insects.
The snowy egret is also known as the lesser egret, little snowy, little white egret and little white heron. Should you see a white egret at a distance and youíre not sure what type it is, remember that snowy egrets have black beaks and yellow feet while great egrets have yellow beaks and black feet!
Snowy Egret with young
Photo of Snowy Egret at