SIB “Bird of the Week” – Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret – Egretta rufescens
Length:  30″; Wingspan: 46″; Weight: 16 oz.

Reddish Egret - North Beach, Seabrook Island - Ed Konrad
Reddish Egret – North Beach, Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

If you are walking on North Beach between late July and October, and you see a dark blue, medium sized heron like bird at the edge of the ocean or in a tide pool, acting like a drunken sailor, it’s probably a Reddish Egret. This bird does a fascinating dance as it fishes in shallow salt water and stalks the fish by running, jumping, staggering and flapping it’s wings. It spreads it’s wings to reduce the glare on the water so it can better see to spear the fish. Sometimes small fish even seek shelter in the shade of the egret’s spread wings, making it even easier for him to find prey. It’s always a very good birding day when you see a Reddish Egret on North Beach!

The Reddish Egret has a slate blue body with a distinct rusty head and shaggy-plumed neck. It is about 30″ long and has a wing span of 46″. It’s legs are bluish-black and it’s bill is pinkish with black at the end. There is also an all white morph, which is seldom seen and quite a rarity in SC. Similar birds, and easily confused with it, are the Little Blue Heron (too small) and the Tricolored Heron (white down the front of the neck and underparts). The Tricolored Heron even fishes in the same style, so look carefully at the bird if you think you have a Reddish. It has no white on it. You will seldom see more than one at a time, although last year for the very first time in 10 years of birding here, we had a pair at North Beach. And it will only be on the ocean, not in the marsh. We have seen it in the area of the old cut, too.

This egret does not breed here in SC. It is here in what is called a “post breeding dispersal.” It breeds in mostly Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The only places it breeds in the US are Texas and Florida. It lays 3-4 eggs and both parents care for the birds. It’s numbers were decimated when it’s plumes were used for hats from 1927-37, but now there are approximately 2,000 nesting pairs in the US.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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