The Assateague

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Photos Copyright 2005 The Assateague Naturalist
The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Photographed in May 2004 along the beach road.
Distinguished from the great egret by its smaller size , its black bill, and yellow feet, the snowy egret can be spotted on Assateague from spring through fall, often along the refuge's Wildlife Loop (map) at the edge of the water in a marsh.

In the latter part of the 19th century and into the early twentieth, snowy egret plumes were very popular on hats. The result was that these birds were hunted until they were nearly extinct.

Found along much of the East Coast and elsewhere in the U.S., snowy egrets spend the winter from South Carolina southward. Their main foods are fish, crabs, amphibians, and insects.

Snowy egrets breed once a year, and females lay three to five greenish blue eggs that hatch in three to four weeks. Their platform-like nests are built primarily of twigs and are located in trees (about seven feet, more or less, above the ground) or even on the ground.

As with other herons, the crudeness of the nest, the elliptical form of the egg, and other signs suggest to some scientists that these birds are one of the lower forms on the scale of bird life, not far removed from the reptiles, when one reckons in eons of time.

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