|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|This week I made a bicycle tour. Not far from the place where I live, I saw a fishing Great White Egret. It was close enough to make pictures of it. The light was acceptable. After a few minutes it get impatient and started to kick in the water, fly around splashing in the water and made a lot of noise with the purpose to frighten the fish. But it don’t succeeded. See workshop photo.|
After that it walked on the pasture and picked a mouse. It walked to the ditch, cleaned the mouse in the water and swallowed it.
The Great White Egret (Ardea alba), also known as the Common Egret, Large Egret is a large, widely distributed egret, with four subspecies found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe. Distributed across most of the tropical and warmer temperate regions of the world. It builds tree nests in colonies close to water.
Systematics and taxonomy
Like all egrets, it is a member of the heron family, Ardeidae. Traditionally classified with the storks in the Ciconiiformes, the Ardeidae are closer relatives of pelicans and belong in the Pelecaniformes instead. The Great Egret—unlike the typical egrets—does not belong to the genus Egretta but together with the great herons is today placed in Ardea. In the past, however, it was sometimes placed in Egretta or separated in a monotypic genus Casmerodius.
The Old World population is often referred to as the Great White Egret. This species is sometimes confused with the Great White Heron of the Caribbean, which is a white morph of the closely related Great Blue Heron.
The scientific name comes from Latin ardea "heron", and alba, "white".
There are four subspecies in various parts of the world, which differ but little. Differences are bare part coloration in the breeding season and size; the largest A. a. modesta from Asia and Australasia some taxonomists consider a full species, the Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta).
• A. a. alba Linnaeus, 1758 – nominate, found in Europe
• A. a. egretta Gmelin, JF, 1789 – found in Americas
• A. a. melanorhynchos Wagler, 1827 – found in Africa
• A. a. modesta Gray, JE, 1831 – Eastern Great Egret, found in India, Southeast Asia, and Oceania
The Great White Egret is a large heron with all-white plumage. Standing up to 1 m tall, this species can measure 80 to 104 cm in length and have a wingspan of 131 to 170 cm. Body mass can range from 700 to 1,500 g, with an average of around 1,000 g. It is thus only slightly smaller than the Great Blue or Grey Heron (A. cinerea). Apart from size, the great egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season. In breeding plumage, delicate ornamental feathers are borne on the back. Males and females are identical in appearance; juveniles look like non-breeding adults. Differentiated from the Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedius) by the gape, which extends well beyond the back of the eye in case of the great egret, but ends just behind the eye in case of the intermediate egret.
It has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, ibises, and spoonbills, which extend their necks in flight. The great egret walks with its neck extended and wings held close. The great egret is not normally a vocal bird; it gives a low hoarse croak when disturbed, and at breeding colonies, it often gives a loud croaking cuk cuk cuk and higher-pitched squawks.
Distribution and conservation
The Great White Egret is generally a very successful species with a large and expanding range, occurring worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. It is ubiquitous across the Sun Belt of the United States and in the Neotropics. In North America, large numbers of great egrets were killed around the end of the 19th century so that their plumes could be used to decorate hats. Numbers have since recovered as a result of conservation measures. Its range has expanded as far north as southern Canada. However, in some parts of the southern United States, its numbers have declined due to habitat loss, particularly wetland degradation through drainage, grazing, clearing, burning, increased salinity, groundwater extraction and invasion by exotic plants. Nevertheless, the species adapts well to human habitation and can be readily seen near wetlands and bodies of water in urban and suburban areas.
The Great White Egret is partially migratory, with northern hemisphere birds moving south from areas with colder winters. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
In 1953, the great egret in flight was chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society, which was formed in part to prevent the killing of birds for their feathers.
The species breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes with reed beds or other extensive wetlands, preferably at height of3.0–12.2 m. It begins to breed at 2-3 years of age by forming monogamous pairs each season. It is unknown if the pairing carries over to the next season. The male selects the nest area, starts a nest and then attracts a female. The nest, made of sticks and lined with plant material, could be up to 3 feet across. Up to six bluish green eggs are laid at one time. Both sexes incubate the eggs and the incubation period is 23-26 days. The young are fed by regurgitation by both parents and they are able to fly within 6-7 weeks.
The Great White Egret feeds in shallow water or drier habitats, feeding mainly on fish, frogs, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and insects, spearing them with its long, sharp bill most of the time by standing still and allowing the prey to come within its striking distance of its bill which it uses as a spear. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim.
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