On the coast it inhabits mangrove areas, swamps, mudflats, sandy beaches and reefs.
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Rice fields are an important habitat in Italy, and coastal and mangrove areas are important in Africa. The bird often moves about among cattle or other hoofed mammals. Little egrets are sociable birds and are often seen in small flocks. Nevertheless, individual birds do not tolerate others coming too close to their chosen feeding site, though this depends on the abundance of prey.
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They use a variety of methods to procure their food; they stalk their prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling their feet to disturb small fish, or may stand still and wait to ambush prey. They make use of opportunities provided by cormorants disturbing fish or humans attracting fish by throwing bread into water.
On land they walk or run while chasing their prey, feed on creatures disturbed by grazing livestock and ticks on the livestock, and even scavenge.
Their diet is mainly fish , but amphibians , small reptiles , mammals and birds are also eaten, as well as crustaceans , molluscs , insects , spiders and worms. Little egrets nest in colonies, often with other wading birds. On the coasts of western India these colonies may be in urban areas, and associated birds include cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis , black-crowned night herons Nycticorax nycticorax and black-headed ibises Threskiornis melanocephalus.
In Europe, associated species may be squacco herons Ardeola ralloides , cattle egrets, black-crowned night herons and glossy ibises Plegadis falcinellus. The nests are usually platforms of sticks built in trees or shrubs, or in reed beds or bamboo groves. In some locations such as the Cape Verde Islands, the birds nest on cliffs. The three to five eggs are incubated by both adults for 21 to 25 days before hatching.
They are oval in shape and have a pale, non-glossy, blue-green shell colour. The young birds are covered in white down feathers , are cared for by both parents and fledge after 40 to 45 days. Egg incubation in nest. Globally, the little egret is not listed as a threatened species and has in fact expanded its range over the last few decades.
Historical research has shown that the little egret was once present, and probably common, in Ireland [ citation needed ] and Great Britain , but became extinct there through a combination of over-hunting in the late mediaeval period and climate change at the start of the Little Ice Age. The inclusion of 1, egrets among numerous other birds in the banquet to celebrate the enthronement of George Neville as Archbishop of York at Cawood Castle in indicates the presence of a sizable population in northern England at the time, and they are also listed in the coronation feast of King Henry VI in Further declines occurred throughout Europe as the plumes of the little egret and other egrets were in demand for decorating hats.
They had been used in the plume trade since at least the 17th century but in the 19th century it became a major craze and the number of egret skins passing through dealers reached into the millions. By the s, the little egret had become restricted to southern Europe, and conservation laws protecting the species were introduced.
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This allowed the population to rebound strongly; over the next few decades it became increasingly common in western France and later on the north coast. It bred in the Netherlands in with further breeding from the s onward. About 22, pairs are thought to breed in Europe, with populations stable or increasing in Spain, France and Italy but decreasing in Greece.
In Britain it was a rare vagrant from its 16th-century disappearance until the late 20th century, and did not breed. It has however recently become a regular breeding species and is commonly present, often in large numbers, at favoured coastal sites. The first recent breeding record in England was on Brownsea Island in Dorset in , and the species bred in Wales for the first time in In Ireland , the species bred for the first time in at a site in County Cork and the population has also expanded rapidly since, breeding in most Irish counties by Severe winter weather in — proved to be only a temporary setback, and the species continues to spread.
In Australia, its status varies from state to state. The little egret has now started to colonise the New World. The first record there was on Barbados in April The bird began breeding on the island in and now also breeds in the Bahamas. The little egrets are larger, have more varied foraging strategies and exert dominance over feeding sites. Little egrets are seen with increasing regularity over a wider area and have been observed from Suriname and Brazil in the south to Newfoundland , Quebec and Ontario in the north.
Birds on the east coast of North America are thought to have moved north with snowy egrets from the Caribbean. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Little egret E. Linnaeus , Play media. Chasing prey in shallow water, Kolkata , India. Retrieved 1 November London: Christopher Helm. Retrieved 27 June Handbook of the Birds of the World.
Barcelona : Lynx Edicions. The Herons Handbook. Bloomsbury Publishing. Witherby Ltd. British Birds. Retrieved 26 October How beautiful are the backing cards?! We have two new exciting and pivotal roles as we build a team to grow, develop and promote our nationwide volunteer… twitter. While some egrets forage in wetlands by using the patient stand-and-wait strategy, or slowly creeping up on their prey, the Little Egret is often far more active when it is in pursuit of food. Often not content to simply stand in the shallows, the Little Egret is regularly seen dashing about frenetically, jerkily lifting its feet high out of the water while darting in this direction and that in pursuit of fish or other aquatic animals, often with its wings raised and fluttered.
The Little Egret is a small white egret with dark grey-black legs, black bill and a bright yellow naked face. In the breeding season the plumage includes two ribbon-like head plumes, and abundant plumes on the back and breast. The Little Egret is also called the Lesser Egret. The Little Egret is found mainly in coastal and inland areas of northern, eastern and south-eastern Australia. It is common on the north, uncommon in the south, and only a winter visitor to Tasmania.
The Little Egret feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, as well as fish and amphibians. The Little Egret hunts in shallow water by shuffling a foot to stir up aquatic prey, which it then takes in a lightning-fast movement. It also chases small fish with its wings raised. Breeding occurs in colonies with other waterbirds.
A scanty nest of sticks is built over water. Both sexes incubate the eggs.
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