Thursday, 12 December 2019

Little Egret portraits

In East Gippsland, Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), are usually encountered as solitary birds (not flocks) and while they may employ the stealthy stalker approach when hunting, they are often seen actively dashing about after food.

I encountered a bird hunting in shallow water at Lake Tyers recently with good late afternoon light. The bird was in breeding plumage sporting two long plumes from the nape and filamentous feathers from the mantle, scapulars and upper breast. Normally the bare facial skin is yellow, however when courting this may briefly change colour. The bird in the photos has pink and bluish coloured facial skin which I have not seen before.

The Little Egret looked to be catching tiny fish as seen in two of the photos.

Please click on photos to enlarge.  

Not a great photo but included because it shows the bird with the breeding plumes and feathers fluffed out.

Little Egrets will use a foot to stir the water to flush fish and other aquatic life – the bird is doing this with its right foot.
Any food item caught in the pincer grip of the bill tip is rapidly thrown back into the throat to be swallowed – catching this with photos is not easy.

A small fish has been caught – an amazingly fast and precise action given the very fine point of the bill. 

Given the condition of this bird’s plumage and facial skin it may be breeding, however I am not aware of any breeding records for this species in East Gippsland?