Great egret (Ardea alba)
By Jan Baumgartner
The great egret is an elegant heron adorned in white, magnificent plumage and is nearly the size of the great blue heron.
Inhabiting six of the seven continents, this long-legged and long-necked marvel is at home near most bodies of water, salt or fresh. The great egret serves as the “spokesbird” for the Audubon Society’s emblem.
It was the first critically endangered bird whose nearly tragic end was prevented by the society’s conservation efforts through legislation. Like all babies, the ones pictured here are still totally dependent on their parents for food and protection. Baby egrets are nest bound until 4 weeks old when they gain the strength and balance to begin exploring, on foot, the branches supporting their nest — as high as 50 to 100 feet off the ground. Talk about a tightrope act!
In another two to three weeks, this brood will test their fledgling wings to become newly minted aviators under parental supervision. It takes a closely knit community to raise all the baby egrets that will, in about two years’ time, keep the colony going strong in adulthood.