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Little egret

Egretta garzetta

A small white heron, pronounced ‘eee-grit’, with beautiful white plumes on its crest, back and chest, a black bill and black legs with strikingly yellow feet.

Little egrets are one of the easiest birds to identify on the Solent coast without binoculars due to their dazzling white plumage.⠀

They didn’t appear in the UK in significant numbers until the late 1980s: they first bred in the UK on Brownsea Island, Dorset, in 1996, and the species has been moving northwards ever since.⠀

They eat amphibians, crustaceans and small fish, using their yellow toes to act as a lure, stretching out their wings to add shade and reduce glare on the water, and using their long dagger-like bills to catch fish. They usually prefer to feed on their own: you’ll see them darting about stirring up the silt with their feet. ⠀

Conservation status

Little egret are green listed in the UK  but while they might not be listed in the Solent’s Special Protection Areas but they are important for the coastal ecosystem and form part of the waterbird assemblages for which these regions are protected.

Did you know

Little egrets played a vital role in the founding of the RSPB: in the nineteenth century a fashion for exotic feathers in women’s hats was pushing birds including little egrets, great crested grebes and birds of paradise towards extinction. In 1889, Emily Williamson created the Society for the Protection of Birds with the aim of campaigning for change. Her efforts helped bring about the 1921 Plumage (Prohibition) Act and the creation of the RSPB.⠀