Great White Egret (Great Egret, Great White Heron) Ardea alba (Egretta alba, Casmerodius albus)

Great White Egret is a rare visitor to the UK from Europe, although records have increased in the last 15 years or so. Sightings of 2 or even 3 birds together have now been reported a few times but the amazing flock of 8 shown below was completely unprecedented in the UK. In 2012 this species nested in Britain for the first time ever, in Somerset, and in the last few years the species has continued to increase.

In Europe this species was formerly known as Great White Heron, but this name should be avoided to prevent confusion with the similar all-white form of Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias occidentalis that is known by the same name where it occurs in North America.

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Great White Egret, Granelli (Sicily, Italy), 3rd May 2012

 

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Great White Egret, Granelli (Sicily, Italy), 29th April 2012

 

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Great White Egret, Granelli (Sicily, Italy), 29th April 2012

 

Great White Egret, Ebro Delta (Cataluña, Spain), 21st May 2013

 

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Great White Egret, Ebro Delta (Cataluña, Spain), 20th May 2013

 

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Great White Egret, Stiffkey (Norfolk, UK), 1st October 2013

 

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Great White Egret, near Porto Pollo (Corsica, France), 15th April 2008

 

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Great White Egret, near Porto Pollo (Corsica, France), 15th April 2008

 

Great White Egret, Göksu Delta (Turkey), 9th May 2010

 

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8 Great White Egrets, Sheringham (Norfolk, UK), 14th October 2009 - the largest flock ever recorded in the UK at the time!

 

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Great White Egret, Minsmere (Suffolk, UK), 2nd May 2015

 

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Great White Egret, Hockwold Fen (Norfolk, UK), 25th March 2016

 

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Great White Egret, Minsmere (Suffolk, UK), 7th September 2013

 

This species has an extensive world range and in North America the form that occurs there (race egretta) is more commonly known as Great Egret. This form is suspected as having occurred in the UK on occasion and the next set of photos all belong to this form.

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Great Egret (North American form egretta), Garden Key, Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA), 20th April 2013

 

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Great Egrets (North American form egretta), Wakodahatchee (Florida, USA), 27th April 2013

 

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Great Egret (North American form egretta), South Bay, San Diego (California, USA), 20th April 2005

 

Great Egret (North American form egretta), Garden Key, Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA), 21st April 2013

 

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Great Egret (North American form egretta), Corkscrew Swamp (Florida, USA), 15th April 2013

 

Great Egret (North American form egretta), Hungry Tarpon restaurant, Islamorada (Florida, USA), 23rd April 2013

 

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Great Egrets (North American form egretta), Ramer Lake (California, USA), 22nd April 2005 - these photos were taken in an active breeding colony

 

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Great Egret (North American form egretta), Babcock-Webb (Florida, USA), 15th April 2013

 

Great Egret (North American form egretta), Babcock-Webb (Florida, USA), 16th April 2013

 

I'm not sure how the African form differs from European birds, but it is assigned to a different race, malanorhynchos. So far as I know it has not been recorded in Europe, though any that did turn up here would be very difficult to detect.

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African Great White Egrets (race melanorhynchos), Lake Chilwa (Malawi), 15th May 2011

 

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African Great White Egrets (race melanorhynchos), Liwonde (Malawi), 26th May 2011

 

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African Great White Egrets (race melanorhynchos), Liwonde National Park (Malawi), 24th-25th September 2008

 

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African Great White Egret (race melanorhynchos; front) and Intermediate Egret (behind), Mpatsanjoka, Senga Bay (Malawi), 9th October 2008