Birds in our World: Immaculate Egrets

A Little Egret taking off.

By Keith Ireland

If you were going by one of our fresh water lagoons or other waterways and saw a white wading bird standing out in the water, you could be fairly confident that it would be one of the three Egrets that are native to Australia.

These immaculate birds will stand in the shallows, concentrating on the water below, ready to plunge their beak into the water and come up with its catch of food.

In most cases, it is more than likely you would see the Great Egret as it seems to have more members in this region. Also known as the Large Egret, it is just under a metre in length.

The second largest of the three is the Intermediate Egret, a name which is appropriate as it is the middle-sized one at just over 60cm in length.

Its other name, Plumed Egret refers to the beautiful lace-like plumes that cover its body on the front and back during the breeding season..

The name of the smallest of the three, at just over 50cm needs no explanation. It is called the Little Egret.

All three Egrets can take off from the water, usually leaving a trail of water in their wake as can be seen in the pictured illustration of the Little Egret .

The other Egret which has been introduced to Australia and become so plentiful that many now regard it as a native, is the Cattle Egret.

In the non-breeding season, it is white all over and is mainly seen wandering with the cattle, but at breeding time, it grows a bright orange plumage on its head, neck and chest which makes it a most attractive bird.