San Diego Creature Snowy Egret

Have you ever seen paintings of ladies, sultans, or military officers with white fluffy feathers on their heads? Where do they come from?

San Diego Creature Snowy Egret feathered hats
Snowy Egret feathers in hats.

Some of these kinds of feathers can be seen on a creature found in San Diego called the Snowy Egret. In the early twentieth century, the Snowy Egret was hunted for their long breeding plumes, or feathers. It was fashionable for ladies to wear the feathers on their hats. Aigrettes, or a headdress consisting of white egret’s feathers, studded with diamonds and rubies, also decorated the turbans of Ottoman sultans or the ceremonial chamfron. A chamfron is the protective armor worn on a horse’s head. An aigrette also used to be worn by certain ranks of officers in the French army.

Adult Snowy Egrets are entirely white apart from the yellow lores (the region between the eyes and nostrils of birds, reptiles, and amphibians.) between the long black bill and the eye, black legs, and bright yellow feet. The nape and neck bear long, shaggy plumes known as aigrettes. Young snowy egrets have duller, greenish legs.

These beautiful birds eat fish, crustaceans, insects, small reptiles, snails, frogs, worms and crayfish. They catch their food in shallow water, usually running fast, or sprinting after schools of minows. Snowy egrets may also stand still and wait to ambush prey. 

Now protected in the United States by law, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, this bird’s population has come back and is now listed as being of “least concern.”

San Diego Creature Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) an entirely white apart bird from the yellow lores between the long black bill and the eye, black legs, and bright yellow feet. At the Southern Wildlife Preserve San Diego River, San Diego, CA, USA.

We found this Snowy egret on the bank of the San Diego River near the Southern Wildlife Preserve.

San Diego Creature Snowy Egret County Map
San Diego County sightings map.
Snowy Egret San Diego creature map
Detail of San Diego Creature Map.

San Diego Creature Snowy Egret Stats

Common Name: Snowy Egret
Latin Name: Egretta thula

Description: Adult snowy egrets are entirely white apart from the yellow lores between the long black bill and the eye, black legs, and bright yellow feet. The nape and neck bear long, shaggy plumes known as aigrettes. Immature snowy egrets have duller, greenish legs.

Size: 22.1-26.0 in (56-66 cm)

Weight: 13.1 oz (370 g) 

Wingspan: 39.4 in (100 cm)

Habitat: wetlands of many types; marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, pools, salt marshes and estuaries.

Fascinating Fact: They were once hunted for their feathers.

Status: Least concern
International Union for Conservation of Nature 

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
Species: E. thula


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Sources:

Knopf, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, 1997. p.369
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/4940-Egretta-thula (Retrieved 01SEP2020)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_egret (Retrieved 01SEP2020)
https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/snoegr/cur/introduction (Retrieved 01SEP2020)
https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22696974/93595536 (Retrieved 01SEP2020)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aigrette (Retrieved 01SEP2020)
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Aigrette“. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 436
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/snowy-egret (Retrieved 02SEP2020)
https://eol.org/traitbank (Retrieved 02SEP2020)
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snowy_Egret/id (Retrieved 02SEP2020)

San Diego Creature Project