Little Egret

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Little Egret
Egretta garzetta 1 (Lukasz Lukasik) .jpg

Little Egret ( Egretta garzetta )

Class : Birds (aves)
Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Herons (Ardeidae)
Subfamily : Day heron (ardeinae)
Genre : Egretta
Type : Little Egret
Scientific name
Egretta garzetta
( Linnaeus , 1766)
Little Egret's Egg
In flight
In search of food
Distribution areas of the little egret:
  • Breeding areas
  • Year-round occurrence
  • Wintering areas
  • Forays (uncertain seasonality)
  • The little egret ( Egretta garzetta ) belongs to the heron family from the order Pelecaniformes . There are four subspecies. The species has a very large range. In Central Europe, the main area of ​​distribution is in Hungary, but there are also small local settlements in all other Central European countries.


    The little egret is much smaller than the gray heron and great egret . He reaches a height of 55 to 65 centimeters and weighs between 280 and 710 grams. The wingspan is about 90 centimeters. There is no sexual dimorphism .

    The plumage is completely white, but the beak and legs are black. The feet are yellow. The bare skin of the reins is gray to gray-greenish. At Hochbalz it is briefly bright purple. It flies like all herons with an S-shaped curved neck.

    In its splendid dress , the little egret wears a head of fine decorative feathers, to which it probably owes its name. From Egrets him distinguish its yellow feet except the size and black beak.


    The distribution area of ​​the little egret extends from southern Europe and north, west and South Africa as well as Madagascar over Asia Minor to Japan. The species is also found in southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia, and in small numbers in New Zealand.

    In Europe, the little egret is particularly widespread in southern Europe, but has been advancing further north in recent years. In Germany it is to be found less often than great egret or purple heron, but regularly observed in small numbers. The little egret is a short to medium distance migrant or resident bird, depending on the geographical location of the occurrence. Most European breeding birds are migratory birds, but the proportion of resident birds in the population varies where the climate permits. It winters on the Atlantic coast of England , France and the Iberian Peninsula as well as in North Africa and Turkey . However, stocks drop in unusually cold winters. Otherwise the birds migrate to the northern tropics of Africa. One of the longest documented migration routes is the migration of breeding birds from the Camargue to Mali, Gambia and Ghana, from Spain to Guinea, from Hungary to Sierra Leone. Two crossings of the Atlantic are also proven. Breeding birds from Spain were found in Trinidad and Martinique. European breeding birds usually migrate south and southwest, migration begins in August and can last until the first half of December. They return in March, so that migratory birds of the European breeding colonies occupy their breeding grounds from around April. Since the species has a tendency to migrate, individual individuals are often found north of the normal breeding area in spring and summer.

    The little egret likes to hang around in shallow, mixed ponds and ponds that are as surrounded by bushes and forested as possible. It requires extensive open, shallow water areas and near-natural floodplain areas. Since it prefers to find its food in shallow water, it is now often found in rice fields or on shallow fish ponds. Similar to the cattle egret , it occasionally joins large mammals grazing.

    Way of life

    The little egret is a diurnal bird that lives sociable both on the roost and while foraging for food. Little Egrets use a number of different foraging tactics. As a rule, they are active hunters who, for example, scare away prey with vibrating foot movements or quickly pass through shallow water and swamp meadows. Little Egrets, spotted foraging in Kakadu National Park, Australia , spent 59.8 percent of their time waiting motionless for prey. While actively searching for food, they slowly moved an average of 5.8 meters forward, tried to grab prey more than twice a minute and were successful in more than 54 percent of the cases. The success in foraging for food is higher in group hunting than in individual foraging. They eat small fish, frogs, lizards, worms, mollusks and aquatic insects.

    Little Egrets reach sexual maturity in their first year of life. Presumably they have a monogamous seasonal marriage. The nest is preferably created in mixed heron colonies. The nest distance is often less than two meters. The male defends a small territory only after mating with a female.

    The male enters the nesting material that is built by the female. Laying begins in Europe from mid / late April. In Hungary there are a few occasions even in August. The clutch comprises three to five eggs. The laying interval is one to two days. The eggs are long-oval and greenish-blue, they pale a little during the breeding season. The breeding season lasts 21 to 22 days and begins when the first egg is deposited. Both parent birds are involved in the brood. The nestlings are fed by both parent birds. Young birds leave the nest after thirty days and move to nearby branches. With 40 to 45 days of life, the young birds are fully fledged. The oldest ringbird found so far reached an age of 22 years and four months.

    Inventory and inventory development

    The little egret was heavily hunted in the 19th century as its feathers were used in the fashion industry. This persecution has resulted in some dramatic decline. Only after 1910 did a recovery set in, as a result of which Hungary was repopulated by little egrets in 1928 and France in 1931. Since the 1950s there has been a significant increase and spread in all breeding areas in Europe. This recovery of the population has also led to the fact that little egrets have settled outside the closed distribution area. So there were single broods in the Czech Republic in 1963 and 1988 and he has been breeding there regularly since 1997. The same applies to Slovakia, where the little egret has been a regular breeding bird population since 1989. In the Netherlands and Belgium the little egret has been a regular breeding bird since 1995, in Germany there were several isolated broods. Forecasts of population development based on climate models assume that the range of the little egret will shift further north and that it will develop into a regular breeding bird in Central Europe by the end of the 21st century .

    The total European population at the beginning of the 21st century was between 68,000 and 94,000 breeding pairs. More than 10,000 breeding pairs were found in Italy, Spain and France respectively. The Central European distribution center is Hungary, where between 600 and 1,000 breeding pairs breed. All other Central European countries have a breeding bird population that is well below fifty breeding pairs.

    supporting documents


    • PJ Higgins (Eds.): Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds , Volume 1, Ratites to Ducks, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1990, ISBN 0-19-553068-3 .
    • James A. Kushlan, James A. Hancock: Herons . Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-854981-4 .
    • Hans-Günther Bauer, Einhard Bezzel and Wolfgang Fiedler (eds.): The compendium of birds in Central Europe: Everything about biology, endangerment and protection. Volume 1: Nonpasseriformes - non-sparrow birds. Aula-Verlag Wiebelsheim, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-89104-647-2 .

    Web links

    Commons : Little Egret  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

    Single receipts

    1. Higgins, p. 996
    2. Higgins, p. 997
    3. Bauer et al., P. 269
    4. Bauer et al., P. 269
    5. ^ Higgins, p. 998
    6. Bauer et al., P. 270
    7. Bauer et al., P. 270
    8. ^ Brian Huntley, Rhys E. Green, Yvonne C. Collingham, Stephen G. Willis: A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds , Durham University, The RSPB and Lynx Editions, Barcelona 2007, ISBN 978-84-96553-14-9 , P.56