This week in Randy's Natural World I’m featuring the snowy egret (Egretta thula). Not to be confused with the slightly smaller cattle egret or the larger great egret, the snowy egret measures about two feet from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. It is white with a black bill, long black legs with yellow feet, and yellow between its beak and eyes.
During breeding season, the snowy egret’s yellow areas turn orange-red in color such as in the photo to the right. Also in breeding season, snowy egrets have recurved plumage.
While its population is thriving now, near the end of the 19th Century, the snowy egret was hunted to near extinction for its feathers, which were used on women’s hats — very popular during that time.
They are fun to watch and are slightly less timid around people than the great egret. Their preferred habitat is shallow waters of inland and coastal wetlands, lakes and occasionally farm ponds. They eat small fish, crustaceans — like crawdads, insects, small frogs and occasionally, small snakes and lizards.
Its methods for hunting include standing still waiting to ambush prey and scurrying along stirring up creatures. They nest in colonies high in trees, often with other herons.
The snowy egret is found throughout central and southern Oklahoma in spring and summer— including Pontotoc County. Two great — somewhat local — places to observe snowy egrets in the spring and summer are Tishomingo and Hagerman national wildlife refuges on the north and south shores of Lake Texoma.