Great Egrets in Wedding Finery – La Peñita

By Ken and Bea

La Peñita Great Egrets

Early Friday morning we biked to the Egret rookery, and were surprised to find nesting well underway with even some eggs laid. The Great Egrets were in fine feather.

La Peñita Great Egrets La Peñita Great Egrets La Peñita Great Egrets

As you can see from the picture, getting good photos often calls for unconventional means for those of us of a certain age. But the reward sometimes outweighs the inconvenience and risk.

La Peñita Great Egrets

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight, especially in mating season.
During the breeding season, both males and females grow long lacy, delicately-flowing plumes (aigrettes) on the back that curl over the tail like a wedding veil.

La Peñita Great Egrets La Peñita Great Egrets

Males and females look alike, but the males are a little larger.

La Peñita Great Egrets

The neck has a characteristic kinked S-curve.

The Great Egret is not normally a vocal bird, but at breeding colonies, however, it often gives a loud croaking “cuk, cuk, cuk”.

The bill is straight, long and sharp. In non-breeding plumage, the bill and surrounding facial skin are yellow. When breeding, the bill turns blackish and the facial skin (lores) becomes green.

Nests are shallow platforms of sticks built in trees, often more than 10 feet above the ground. If you look very carefully, you can see one egg in the nest in this photo.

La Peñita Great Egrets La Peñita Great Egrets

Three or four blue green eggs hatch in 28 to 29 days, and the young fledge in about 60 days. Hatchlings are covered in long, white down. Not all young that hatch survive the nesting period. Aggression among nestlings is common and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings.

The parents aggressively defend the nest and their young. Great Egrets typically only produce one brood per season.

La Peñita Great Egrets

For those interested in more details and photos, please refer to the link Rookery revisited (April 2013)

Editor’s Note:

A few days later Ken and Bea revisited the rookery and caught this photo which is just too good to not be included here:

egret

There are also some fine videos on YouTube of the mating ritual:

and hunting: (good catch at 2:02)

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