I have always liked to watch Great Egrets hunt for fish. They are patient predators. They remind me of a cat or snake as they stay almost motionless and then suddenly strike. The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron or egret in Orange County. The Great Egret comes in a close second. Great Egrets live an average of about 15 years.
Great Egret at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley. Unlike the smaller Snowy Egret, the Great Egret has an orange bill.
Great Egrets are at home in marshes, community parks, regional parks, and anywhere they can find food to eat. Though not that comfortable around people, they will endure them being around if the food source is attractive enough. I have often seen Great Egrets standing on the shore of lakes almost shoulder to shoulder with fishermen. Great Egrets are not above trying to take fish from other birds. No other birds get too aggressive with a Great Egret. In fact the adult Great Egret doesn't have much to fear from nonhuman species. There are many laws that protect the Great Egret and other birds.
Among the reeds at Huntington Central Park.
There was a time when Great Egrets were hunted to near extinction just for ladies' hats and clothing. However, today we are more aware and have laws that protect birds like the Great Egret. Consequently Great Egrets have rebounded. They are graceful and beautiful birds, and we are blessed to have so many in Orange County. Great Egrets are large, white birds with an orange bill and black legs.
Although Great Egrets will eat insects, reptiles, and rodents, these beautiful birds are not usually found far from water. I often see them in Bolsa Chica, Newport Back Bay, Huntington Central Park, and other regional or community parks with stocked lakes and streams. On private property, if you have stocked lakes, ponds, or streams, you will have Great Egrets from time to time.
Average sizes of Herons and Egrets in Orange County--does not include leg length which can make a difference:
Great Blue Heron Length 46" Wing Span 72"
Great Egret Length 39" Wing Span 51"
Snowy Egret Length 24" Wing Span 41"
Cattle Egret Length 20" Wing Span 36"
Green Egret Length 18" Wing Span 26"
Black-Crowned Night Heron Length 25" Wing Span 44"
Great Egret Flying at Bolsa Chica
OC Birder Girl Links of Interest
Herons and Egrets
Great Egret strutting at Bolsa Chica.
Places to See Egrets
Great Egret fishing in high breeding Plumage. Notice the black on the upper part of his beak, and the green lores. This is at Bolsa Chica.
All About Birds: Great Egret Ardea alba
Good Article about the Great Egret. Maps, facts, photographs, and more.
USGS: Great Egret
Good short article.
Animal Diversity Web: Great Egret
Usual excellent article with lots of details about the Great Egret including maps, facts, diet, habits, habitat, conservation, and more.
Good Article, maps, facts, video, sound. Lots of information. Wall paper available.
Pictures, facts, and more.