Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Snowy(ng) in July and August

A pleasure of summer is found on any day whence one looks to stock ponds, creeks, and wetlands in Central Texas and comes to find a Snowy Egret or two slowly shuffling along hunting for small fish it has stirred up. Ah, there goes “yellow feet”, I say even if only to myself. As long as I have been birding in this area, I still get a kick out of seeing those yellow shoes on this smaller and more delicate looking member of the egret family.

Snowies derive their name not from a season but from their plumage. Snowies are commonly found in this area in the summer, not winter. Their plumage in breeding season is snow white, and growing on the back and lower neck are recurved plumes, sometimes referred to as aigrettes. These delicate plumes give the adults an appearance of fresh fallen snow.

In one way the Snowy Egret resembles its larger cousin, the Great Egret in that it is white. Yet, there are many differences; do not assume you are just looking at an immature or smaller Great Egret. The Snowy is identified by a more delicate build, a slender neck, a slender black bill, and black legs which culminate in yellow feet (golden slippers). The Great Egret is larger, almost twice in height; has a yellow, more substantial bill, with legs and feet entirely black.

Photo by Bill Ravenscroft

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