By Larry Czajkoski
Besides one of the obvious benefits of weather in December in Florida, another benefit to visiting the sunshine state in winter is the abundance of unique wildlife and birds that visit and live there, and particularly along the coast. Vacationing in Florida for me means the opportunity to view and photograph some of these wonderful birds. Morning walks along the beach were part of our daily routine while on vacation. We often came upon flocks of Seagulls, Sandpipers, or Heron type birds. On this one morning, we came upon a lone Snowy Egret. Seemingly bracing itself for the oncoming ocean wave, the Snowy Egret I photographed here on the coastline of Sarasota was getting ready to stalk and snag its prey….a small yet tasty morsel of fish for breakfast.
To identify an adult Snowy Egret, think two-tone. They have a yellow lore (the area between eye and bill) but an all black bill. They have black legs (at least in the adults) and yellow feet. The Snowy Egret’s “golden slippers”, when not submerged in water or covered in mud, make identification of this white heron easy. Another trait is the beautiful plumage of the Snowy Egret, which gets even more pronounced in breeding adults. This bird suffered severe declines after extensive plume-hunting in the late 1800s. Thankfully, numbers have rebounded over the last century.
Snowy Egrets can be found in freshwater, saltwater, and brackish wetlands. Away from the coast, they are more likely to be found in larger marshes and swamps. After summer, they withdraw from much of their inland range, favoring the coastal sites for winter, both in the southeast US and some traveling as far as South America. The good news is you don’t need to go to Florida to find this beautiful bird. The Snowy Egret can be found primarily along the coasts of North Carolina in the summer time.