Snowy egret

Photo by Wendy Brewer

The snowy egret (Egretta thula) is a year-round refuge resident, often seen roosting in trees in large numbers. Adult snowys are all white with a black bill, a yellow patch at the base of the bill, and yellow feet ("golden slippers").

Their range includes most of South America, Central America, and the southern and far western US.

Considerably smaller than the the great egret, they can grow up to 24 inches tall and weigh less than a pound. They tend to hunt by shuffling their feet or making other commotion in the water to flush out their prey which consists of fish, reptiles, crustaceans, snails, and small mammals.

Snowy egrets were hunted almost to extinction in the US by market hunters seeking the beautiful breeding plumes for the fashion trade. Concerned citizens pressed the state of Florida and the federal government to outlaw the trade and provide protected breeding areas for snowy egrets and other threatened species.

One of the results was the establishment by President Theodore Roosevelt of Pelican Island NWR in Florida in 1903, the very first NWR.

Under federal and international protection snowy's have now rebounded and are doing well.