By Alexis Kirk, age 13

(Jan 13, 2023) Great egrets are majestic birds that live alongside wild horses on the Virginia Range. Great egrets are one of six different types of herons that roam Nevada. These birds are tall and large in size with completely white feathers. They have long, sharp, yellow bills and long necks and legs. The noises they make are interesting. Their croaks sound like a lower version of a frog’s croak. When with their colony, all of their croaks combined are very loud. When nesting or looking for a mate, males can make duck-like squawks to call females over to watch their courting dance.

Great egrets reside in ponds, wetlands, marshes, or slow-moving, shallow-water areas. They nest in trees or thickets near a body of water. They forage by standing or wading in shallow water, waiting for a fish, their favorite food, to come near. The egret snatches up the fish with its long, sharp bill. They may also forage in open fields or steal food from other, smaller birds. Egrets enjoy snacking on frogs, salamanders, aquatic insects, or small snakes.

When it comes to the time of maturity, the male great egret chooses a nesting spot and courts a female for a potential mate. A female egret has 1-6 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young, taking turns caring for them.

In the 1800s, great egrets were hunted for their plume and their populations decreased rapidly. Their species was almost completely wiped out in the name of fashion, but conservationists put an end to the slaughtering and protected their habitats, allowing the birds to recover throughout the 20th century.