Australian Bush Birds
Little Egret  -  Ardea garzetta
Little Egret
Little Egret stalking over low-tide mid-flat at Urunga, NSW.
breeding Little Egret
Little Egret in breeding plumage at Port Augusta.
map map The Little Egret - Ardea garzetta - has white plumage; bill, legs and feet are black, soles of the feet are yellow. Facial skin is yellow to orange; eyes yellow. Male and female similar; immature birds are similar to non-breeding adults. In flight, the neck is folded and the feet trail well behind the tail. Reaches 55 to 65 centimetres in length.

Breeding birds have two long white plumes from the back of the head as well as fine lacy plumes on the upper breast. Eye colour changes to red and the yellow facial patch near the bill changes to buff.

Lives in the shallows of fresh and marine wetlands. Forages, usually alone, in shallows of open waters in billabongs, floodplain pools, mudflats and mangrove channels. Rarely enters pastures or water more than 10 centimetres deep.

Little Egret - page 2
Preys on small vertebrates - fish and amphibians - and small invertebrates. Stands still, waiting, then walks or runs after sighted prey, often raising its wings. May shuffle its feet in the water to stir up prey or feed with spoonbills for disturbed prey.

The Little Egret has difficulty with prey fish longer than 10 centimetres and often loses them.

Distributed on coastal and inland mud flats through the three eastern mainland states as well as the Top End, the Kimberley and along the west coast. Also found from New Guinea to southern Eurasia and Africa.

Breeds throughout the year, mainly spring and summer. The nest is a platform of sticks in a tree or bush, in some districts in reed beds or on a rocky islet. Nests in colonies with other colonially nesting birds. Up to five eggs are laid, but usually three or four; bright blue-green, oval, about 43 x 31 millimetres. Incubated by both parents for 21 to 25 days. The young are fed by both parents by regurgitation and fledge in 45 to 50 days.

There are two races of Little Egret, one found in Australia is small with black toes.

Little Egret Little Egret
Left: Little Egret black legs
Right: Little Egret head showing the yellow facial skin between eye and black bill.