The wading birds of Celebration – EGRETS

Each fall the white egrets return to our ponds to pass the winter.  After spending the summer breeding in rookeries in remote swamps and marshes along the coastlines of  Northern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, a few travel as family groups to our retention and natural ponds.

Some stay for the winter, others continue on to points south such as the Everglades and various Caribbean Islands.

While a few can be seen during the summer, they are mostly juvenile birds too young to join the rookeries. The breeding birds return back to our ponds starting in September.

There are two types of Egrets that winter in Celebration.

The Great Egret is on average 39 inches tall. Field marks are large size and yellow/orange bill.

The Snowy Egret is on average 24 inches tall. Field marks are smaller size, black bill and bright yellow feet.

The birds have a special relationship as they sometimes cooperatively hunt for small fish along the shorelines of ponds.

The Great Egret with its longer legs wades several feet off the pond shoreline and the Snowy Egret with its shorter legs works the pond edge.  The fish are chased between the two ensuring a good meal for both species.

The return of the Egrets peaks in late September thru October.  A line-up of the two species can often be seen perching on the cement spillways throughout our community.

The Egrets are fun to watch and can be abundant during the peak migration.  They add a “Real Florida” look to our ponds and are remarked upon by visitors to our community.

 

By Chet Blazak

The above article appears in the September 2019 edition of the Celebration News

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