Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections
One of the birds I most enjoy watching in our wetlands and swamps is the Great Egret. It’s hard not to be captivated by these creatures — the epitome of ethereal beauty, grace and strength, they wade, stalk and fly in our waters with balletic poise. They’re the largest egret in the Old World — thus the great of their title. In the New World however, Great Blue Herons win the size competition.
To see their brilliant all-white plumage reflected on the water’s surface is always a stunning sight. These beautiful birds were hunted mercilessly towards the end of the 19th century for their gorgeous feathers — nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers decimated by 95 percent. Their breeding plumage was especially prized, and the treasured feathers were used in hats across the globe. During the breeding season, the Great Egret displays long, elegant plumes on its back, which are used in courtship displays. But with conservation measures enacted, their numbers grew throughout the 20th century. While wetland habitat loss is once again threatening their existence, these birds have a high adaptability to human habitation. Of course, the loss of wetland ecosystems remains another issue altogether for other wildlife and flora….
These egrets feed by stalking, wading in the shallow water, patiently waiting for fish — then grabbing or stabbing their hapless meal with sharp bills. I’ve also seen them dine on amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals; sometimes their eyes are larger than their stomachs.