The Great Egret is generally a very successful species with a large and expanding range, occurring worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. It is ubiquitous across the Sun Belt of the United States and in the Neotropics. In North America, large numbers of great egrets were killed around the end of the 19th century so that their plumes could be used to decorate hats. Numbers have since recovered as a result of conservation measures. Its range has expanded as far north as southern Canada. However, in some parts of the southern United States, its numbers have declined due to habitat loss, particularly wetland degradation through drainage, grazing, clearing, burning, increased salinity, groundwater extraction and invasion by exotic plants. Nevertheless, the species adapts well to human habitation and can be readily seen near wetlands and bodies of water in urban and suburban areas.
Mute Swans nest on large mounds that they build with waterside vegetation in shallow water on islands in the middle or at the very edge of a lake. They are monogamous and often reuse the same nest each year, restoring or rebuilding it as needed. Male and female swans share the care of the nest, and once the cygnets are fledged it is not uncommon to see whole families looking for food. They feed on a wide range of vegetation, both submerged aquatic plants which they reach with their long necks, and by grazing on land. The food commonly includes agricultural crop plants such as oilseed rape and wheat, and feeding flocks in the winter may cause significant crop damage, often as much through trampling with their large webbed feet, as through direct consumption.
The great egret always gets me excited when we see it, it is such an elegant bird. Swans are not indigenous to South Africa so we seldom see them, and when we do they’re invariable “domesticated” and rather aggressive!
The great egrets are such an example of gracious stylized wade bird with an immaculate plumage, even when spend most of time in a swamp.
This swan I photographed in a lake in New Jersey. Thank you, D. 🙂