Definitions

egret

egret

[ee-grit, eg-rit, ee-gret, ee-gret]
egret, common name for several species of herons of the Old and New Worlds, belonging to the family Ardeidae. Before they were protected by law the birds were nearly exterminated by hunters seeking their beautiful, white, silky plumage called aigrettes, used in millinery. These feathers develop during the breeding season. In the American egret the plumes are straight, about 21 in. (52.5 cm) long, growing on the back. The smaller snowy egret, or snowy heron (Leucophoyx thula), the most beautiful and most hunted, has curved plumes on the back, head, and breast. The reddish egret (Dichromanassa rufa) is white part of the year, changing to grayish with brown head and neck. The greater and lesser egrets are European species. Egrets are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Herodiones, family Ardeidae.

Common egret (Egretta alba)

Any of several species (mainly in the genus Egretta) of wading birds in the same family (Ardeidae) as herons and bitterns. Egrets live in marshes, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments worldwide. They catch and eat small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and crustaceans. They nest in trees and bushes or on the ground. Most are white and develop long plumes for the breeding season. The value of plumes as ornamental objects once drove egrets to near-extinction, but changes in fashion and strict conservation measures have allowed their numbers to increase. The great white egret is about 35 in. (90 cm) long; other common species average 20–24 in. (50–60 cm) long.

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This is an article about a type of bird. For the EGRET satellite mission, see Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope.

An egret is any of several herons, most of which are white or buff, and several of which develop fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Many egrets are members of the genera Egretta or Ardea which contain other species named as herons rather than egrets. The distinction between a heron and an egret is rather vague, and depends more on appearance than biology. The word "egret" comes from the French word "aigrette", referring to the long filamentous feathers that seem to cascade down an egret's back during the breeding season.

Several of the egrets have been moved around from one genus to another in recent years: the Great Egret, for example, has been classified as a member of either Casmerodius, Egretta or Ardea.

In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, some of the world's egret species were endangered by relentless hunting, since hat makers in Europe and the United States demanded massive numbers of egret plumes and breeding birds were killed in locations all around the world.

Several Egretta species, including the Eastern Reef Egret, the Reddish Egret and the Western Reef Egret have two distinct colours, one of which is entirely white. Little Blue Heron has all-white juvenile plumage.

Species in taxonomic order

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