Little Egret

Little Egret – Egretta garzetta


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Genre: Egretta
  • Species: Egretta garzetta

Identification characters

The little egret is a medium-sized, slender and elegant lizard with a plumage of immaculate white. Compared to the female, the male is slightly larger. The legs are black, but with yellow toes. The legs are shorter in relation to body length compared to the white egret, and their projection in flight is moderate, and the wings appear centrally inserted. During the breeding season they develop two elegant feathers on the back of their heads, much sought after in the past as ornaments. The beak is black, the lorum is bluish-grey most of the year, and in the courtship period it takes on a reddish tinge. Outside the colonies it is usually silent and only when it takes flight does it emit a hoarse, seed crow-like sound. Birds in colonies make loud, gargling sounds.


The range of the species is the whole European continent except the Scandinavian Peninsula. It winters on the African continent.
The European population of the species is relatively small, ranging from 66 700 to 84 800 pairs. Although the population showed an upward trend between 1970 and 1990, it is now in slight decline.
In Romania, the White Egret population is around 4 000-8 000 pairs. Larger flocks are present in Italy, France, Spain, Azerbaijan and Russia. Between 20,000 and 50,000 individuals can be seen on Romanian territory during passages.

Living environment and biology of the species

For nesting they prefer marshy areas, deltas and ponds with tree stands. It is the quietest of the egrets. It nests in mixed colonies with other species of terns and cormorants. Maximum known longevity is 22 years.
It hunts by lying in wait or moving carefully in shallow water. They feed on fish up to 10 cm long, amphibians and other small aquatic animals (especially insects and molluscs). During nesting, parents travel between 7 and 13 km from the colony daily to feed.
A summer visitor to our country, it arrives in early April from wintering quarters. It builds its nest, made of twigs and reeds, on willows and sometimes in reeds or thick shoots near ponds. Both parents participate in nest building. In colonies, nests are placed up to 4 m apart. Between the second half of May and the first half of June, the female lays 3-4 greenish eggs. Incubation lasts 21-25 days and is carried out by both parents. The chicks remain in the nest for around 30 days. They leave the nest before they can fly, climbing skilfully through the branches. They continue to be fed by their parents until they are 40 days old, when they become independent.

Threats and conservation measures

The Great Egret is threatened by habitat loss and alteration, pollution and management
management, poaching.
In order to conserve white egret populations, it is recommended to respect restrictions in riparian areas, manage litter in wetlands, protect nesting and feeding sites, conserve woodlands in the vicinity of aquatic habitats, maintain and conserve reedbeds with permanent water, protect colonies, prohibit burning reeds. Forestry work of any kind should be carried out outside the species’ breeding season. Only selective and low-toxicity agrochemicals should be used on neighbouring land. Measures to prevent drying out and sudden artificial changes in the water regime in wetlands are of the utmost importance.
Research is needed to assess the impact of the species on commercially exploited resources (geese, crustaceans, molluscs) and to harmonise conservation objectives with the activities of the affected sectors.
Hunting legislation needs to be respected, and good cooperation between conservation organisations, hunting organisations, the gendarmerie and the Environment Guard is desirable.
Studies on various aspects of the biology of the species, the inventory of current and potential breeding areas, the identification of migration, feeding and aggregation areas are useful and should be promoted.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editori), 2022, Atlas al speciilor de păsări de interes comunitar din România, ediția a II-a – Iubește păsările, salvează natura!, Proiect finanțat din Fondul European de Dezvoltare Regională prin Programul Operațional Infrastructură Mare 2014-2020, Ministerul Mediului, Apelor și Pădurilor- Direcția Biodiversitate, coordonare științifică Societatea Ornitologică Română și Asociația pentru Protecția Păsărilor și a Naturii Grupul Milvus, produs de EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 102-103;
  • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Herons, storks and ibises p. 30, Chancellor Press, London
  • Svensson (text și hărți), 2017, Ghid pentru identificarea păsărilor. Europa și zona mediteraneană, traducerea și adaptarea în limba română: Societatea Ornitologică română, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.82;
  • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Mic atlas ornitologic – Păsările lumii, Editura Albatros, București, p. 660;
  • Ornitodata | Egretă mică (
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