Friday, April 04, 2014

Smith Oaks Rookery: Great Egrets

Great Egrets are so common in our area that it is almost impossible to visit any significant body of water without seeing one wading in it or fishing from the banks. 

Given their size, the bright yellow of their bill and their pure white plumage, they are always strikingly handsome birds. 

However, as these photos from Sunday at High Island show, Great Egrets become even more striking in the spring, when they develop their breeding plumage. 

At this time of year it is easy to see why they were hunted during the Victorian and Edwardian periods so that their feathers could be used to decorate ladies' hats.

As you may have noticed in the photos above, the addition of long plumes is not the only way that Great Egrets change in appearance during mating season. Their faces also change.

Most of the year, the skin around and in front of the eye is a nondescript color.

In breeding season, the skin changes to a bright green hue. 

Handsome as Great Egrets are when they are perched or walking, their real beauty for me lies in the way they fly.

It is true they can look a little awkward when taking off from or landing in the trees at the High Island rookery.

However, when they get into full flight, they are the very epitome of gracefulness.



Dave said...

Awww Jeff what a great post. Obviously the highlight image is the one displaying all the wonderful plumes, but a great set of images mate.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Dave. It was difficult to get well composed pictures because the birds were all crammed in together.