One of the great things about spending time outdoors, whether it is for photography or just for enjoyment, is that there is so much to see in nature, and so much more to learn. One species which I am pleased to see in New Jersey, is a large white bird called the Great Egret.
The Great Egret is a large all-white bird which is a member of the Heron family, and when standing upright will be approximately 3’ tall, with a wingspan of nearly 5’. It is quickly identified by its yellow bill and black legs and feet. The male and female look identical, yet when you see a pair together, the larger of the two should be the male.
The Great Egret can be found throughout New Jersey and is commonly seen in wetlands, fresh water marshes, inland streams, and the salt marshes that line our shoreline. The Great Egret is normally seen mixed in with Snowy Egrets, Glossy Ibis and numerous other species, as they slowly hunt throughout their habitat. The Great Egret will slowly and patiently work along muddy embankments, or wade through shallow water in search for minnows, larger fish, crayfish, frogs and even snakes. When it locates its prey it will “freeze” in place as to not scare off the prey, and when the time is right the Great Egret will pull its head and neck back and then do a rapid thrust forward and impale its prey. It then will turn the prey around to assure that it is swallowed head first as it consumes its meal. The bill on the Great Egret is long, bulky and straight and combined with the “spearing” action, the Great Egret possesses a formidable weapon.
This species can be seen in New Jersey at many locations such as: The Great Swamp NWR; DeKorte Park in the Meadowlands; or any of the State Wildlife Management Areas or the National Wildlife Refuges which can be easily found along our coast from Sandy Hook down to Cape May NJ.