Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Egretta rufescens

In the United States, reddish egrets can only be found in the states around the Gulf of Mexico in areas with shallow salt water. Reddish egrets have two color morphs, dark and white, the latter of which can be difficult to distinguish from other white wading bird species. The dark morph has cinnamon-brown neck and head feathers with a slate-gray body. The white morph is completely white. Both color morphs have blueish legs with a bill that is pink at the base and black at the tip. The Florida population is estimated to be 350-400 pairs, perhaps two-thirds of which occur in the Florida Keys.

Reddish Egrets reside in all four of the Florida Keys NWR's, frequently feeding in shallow salt ponds where fish small fish concentrate.Reddish egrets can also be identified by their energetic and acrobatic foraging strategy. To scare small fish into shallow areas where they can be caught, reddish egrets dash about with their wings out spread until the fish are in the opportune place for the egrets to pluck them from the water.

During the early 1900’s reddish egrets experienced massive population declines because of overhunting for the millinery trade when wearing birds or bird feathers on hats was the height of fashion for some people. Fortunately, the birds have made a comeback throughout most of their previous range. Reddish egrets are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature "Near Threatened" list.

For several years we have been partnering with scientists at Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to identify daily and seasonal movements of the reddish egret using satellite-tracking technology. These studies will identify critical habitats and provide other ecological information about reddish egrets that will inform future management decisions and strategies. For more information on the satellite-tracking studies of the reddish egret and other imperiled birds that use the Florida Keys NWRs, visit ARCI's website .