The Great Egret Ardea alba, also known as the Great White Egret, or Common Egret, is a wading egret, found in most of the tropical and warmer temperate parts of the world, although it is very local in southern Europe and Asia. It is called Kōtuku in New Zealand. It is sometimes confused with the Great White Heron in Florida, which is a white morph of the Great Blue Heron.
The Great Egret feeds in shallow water or drier habitats, spearing fish, frogs or insects with its long, sharp bill. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It is a common species, usually easily seen.
The Great Egret is partially migratory, with northern hemisphere birds moving south from areas with cold winters. It breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes with reed beds or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest. The call at breeding colonies is a loud croaking "cuk cuk cuk".
They are Protected in Australia under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974.
The Great Egret is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Various authors also identify this species as Egretta alba and Casmerodius albus. However, this species closely resembles the large Ardea herons such as Grey Heron and Great Blue Heron in everything but colour, whereas it shows fewer similarities to the smaller white egrets.
There are four subspecies in various parts of the world, of which the largest is A. a. modesta.
The Great Egret is depicted on the reverse side of the 5-Brazilian Reais banknote, and on the New Zealand $2 coin.