Great egrets (Ardea alba) are a striking summer sight here in Northeastern California. These pure white birds with orange-yellow bills and black legs stand still in shallow water and watch for prey. Once it sights the small fish and invertebrates that form the bulk of its diet, a great egret strikes with its bill at amazing speed. Amphibians, reptiles, small birds and small mammals also fall victim to the great egret’s dagger-like jab.
Soon these summer visitors will depart for their winter grounds in Central and South America and along coastal United States. Slow and steady fliers, great egrets can cruise at 25 miles per hour beating their wings twice per second.
This great egret was photographed along the Tule River near McArthur in Shasta County CA.
I always miss our avian summer visitors once they migrate in the autumn, but before long it will be spring and they will return again. Perhaps I appreciate the great egret more since I cannot always see its elegant form gracing our wetlands.