New York Natural Heritage Program
Snowy Egret
Egretta thula (Molina, 1782)

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized, white heron that is 56-66 cm in length and has a wingspan of 100 cm and a body mass of 370 g. They have black legs with yellow feet and a black bill (Parsons and Master 2000). During breeding season, long, white plumes trail from the throat and the rump. They are known to nest in colonies with others of the same species or another heron species (Budliger and Kennedy 2005). They nest in trees or shrubs or, in some areas, on the ground or in marsh vegetation (Spendelow and Patton 1988 cited in Parsons and Master 2000). Clutch size is 3-5 pale blue-green eggs which are incubated for 20-24 days (Budliger and Kennedy 2005). Vocalizations include a raspy "raarr" or nasal "hraaa" (Sibley 2000) and low croaks and a bouncy "wulla-wulla-wulla" on breeding grounds (Budliger and Kennedy 2005).

Diet [-]
Snowy Egrets eat small fishes, frogs, lizards, snakes, crustaceans, worms, snails, and insects (Palmer 1962 cited in Nature Serve 2007). One New Jersey study showed that this species seems to prefer to forage in wadeable, shallow pools with high prey densities (Master et al. 2005).
Snowy Egret Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
On the coast, this species is rare before late March and after November (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007).
Present Breeding
The time of year you would expect to find Snowy Egret present (blue shading) and breeding (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
    The Little Blue Heron has a yellow-orange bill and legs instead of a black bill and legs with yellow feet like the Snowy Egret (Budliger and Kennedy 2005).
  • Great Egret (Ardea alba)
    The Great Egret is 38 cm longer than the Snowy Egret, so their greatest difference is size (Nature Serve 2007). In addition, the Snowy Egret has a black bill and yellow feet, while the Great Egret has a yellow bill and black feet (Budliger and Kennedy 2005).