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5

Little Egret

(Ardea [Egretta] garzetta)
Alternate name(s): "Lesser Egret", "Spotless Egret"
Size: 55-65 cm; wingspan: 88-106 cm
Weight: 350-550 g

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Little Egret at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "garzetta"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Lateral view of a Little Egret in flight - note the yellow feet which characterize this race
(photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Buffalo Creek point, Darwin, NT, November 2018]

Additional information

More photos were obtained by us in Europe and Oman.

Race "nigripes"

ADULT

Sex unknown

BREEDING

With nuptial flush

Lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage with nuptial flush - note the pink orbital skin (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Arkarra Lagoons, Hervey Bay, QLD, November 2023]

Without nuptial flush

Close-up frontal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage; note the prominent nuchal plumes (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Close-up near-frontal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Near-frontal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

Near-lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, May 2021]

Near-lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

Close-up lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Close-up lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, September 2022]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, May 2021]

Close-up lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, November 2022]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Near-dorsal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage, different posture (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

Direct comparison of a Little Egret in breeding plumage, right, with a White-faced Heron, left (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Coolmunda Dam, Darling Downs, QLD, November 2017]

NON-BREEDING

Close-up full-frontal view of a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Gold Coast, QLD, June 2014]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage
[Cattai Wetlands, Coopernook, NSW, October 2023]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Wyndham, WA, January 2016]

Lateral view of a Little Egret moulting into breeding plumage; it has no nuchal plumes yet (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

Little Egret hunting in mangrove in an intertidal wetland
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, February 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a hunched Little Egret in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Gold Coast, QLD, June 2014]

Dorsal view of a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, July 2022]

Near-lateral view of a Little Egret taking off (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2014]

Little Egret in transitional plumage taking off (photo courtesy of B. Kinross)
[Beachmere, QLD, August 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a Little Egret touching down in shallow water
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, September 2016]

Comparison between different species of egret/heron: Pied Heron at the back, Little Egret, front left, and Great Egret, front right
(photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Fogg Dam CR, NT, May 2018]

Direct comparison of a Little Egret with a Brolga (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Wyndham, WA, January 2016]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Oct - Dec Eggs: 4 - 6 Incubation period: 20 - 25 days Fledging age: 35 - 37 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Little Egrets breed Feb. - June. Given the right conditions, Little Egrets can breed any time of the year. They breed in colonies, together with other aquatic birds.

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks Height above ground: 5 - 20 m

Seen nesting, together with other aquatic birds, along the shores of Narrabri Lake during the breeding season of 2011.

Frontal view of a Little Egret on its nest, with a chick in front
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 42 x 30 mm Colour: Light blue Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Little Egrets have a different hunting technique compared to other species of egrets or herons.

Instead of always waiting for the prey to move towards them and then snapping it up, they have been observed by us just walking up to their prey, actively pursuing prey in shallow water and also performing some kind of "step-dance", chasing or encircling their prey.

Lateral view of a Little Egret standing in the receding tide, waiting for prey to come its way
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, March 2015]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage stalking its prey
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, March 2015]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in breeding plumage actively pursuing its prey
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, March 2015]

Lateral view of a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage stalking around its intended prey, with the intention of trapping it in the circle created by the disturbance; the circle is still visible in the wave pattern at the water's surface
[Near Walgett, NSW, June 2012]

Food, Diet

All egrets and herons prey on aquatic creatures in fresh water or estuaries (fish, frogs, snakes or crustaceans).

Little Egret in breeding plumage with its catch (photo courtesy of B. Kinross)
[Beachmere, QLD, February 2014]

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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