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Living Sanibel: Reddish egret has unique feeding behavior

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

This is one of only a handful of herons that has more than one color morph, another being the great blue heron (which comes in blue, white, or a mixture known as Wrdemann’s heron). Although slightly larger than either the snowy egret or the little blue heron, the reddish egret from a distance is very difficult to distinguish from the other two birds.

When trying to identify a white-morph reddish egret, look for a pink bill with a black tip and dark blue legs and feet. Perhaps one of the best ways to identify the reddish egret is by observing its feeding behavior. It performs a “canopy dance,” spreading its wings open to form a shaded area over the water, then chasing down the minnows that come to find shelter in the shade. It is far and away the most animated feeding behavior of all the wading birds – making the reddish egret a very entertaining bird to watch.

The reddish egret suffered dramatic losses from plume hunters and is now considered fairly rare in the United States, but fortunately it is often seen in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Like most herons, the reddish egret is monogamous and nests with other wading birds. Since it feeds almost exclusively in saltwater, it is vulnerable to water-quality issues, as well as habitat destruction.

This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.