New York Natural Heritage Program
Great Egret
Ardea alba Linnaeus, 1758

Threats [-]
Habitat loss has been noted as the greatest threat to this species. In addition, complete information on breeding and foraging habitat requirements is not currently available (McCrimmon 2006). On Long Island, threats include flooding, erosion, human activity, and predation. Human activities include boating, dredge spoil deposition, pedestrians, jet skiers, ORV and other vehicle use, development, oil spills, contaminants, vandalism, and invasive species. Known predators that currently pose a threat to populations are crows, gulls, fox, raccoons, dogs, feral cats, rats, and others (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices [-]
As habitat loss is the largest known threat to Great Egrets, continuing to protect lands such as the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and other managed areas is important to the conservation of this species and other colonial waterbirds (Brown et al. 2001). Limiting predation and human activity through the use of predator exclosures, visitor education, and by posting restricted signs in breeding and foraging areas would also be beneficial. Any habitat restoration efforts should consider increasing the availability of pool and open water habitat, as foraging habitat availability may be a limiting factor for egrets (Trocki and Paton 2006). Another consideration for the management of breeding Great Egrets is the use of buffers around colonies to reduce flushing responses to human disturbance (Peters and Otis 2006). Vehicle disturbances, especially in undeveloped areas, have been shown to cause a decline in foraging rates for this species, with seasonal differences in behavioral response (Stolen 2003, Traut and Hostetler 2003). This suggests that buffer zones could provide additional protection.

Research Needs [-]
Further studies are needed to understand how this species is affected by habitat loss from human activity. While many existing and potential threats have been identified, further knowledge about how these threats interplay and affect Great Egret behavior and population viability would better inform management decisions (Peters and Otis 2006). More complete information on breeding and foraging habitat requirements is needed for this species as well (McCrimmon 2006).