Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)


French: Aigrette neigeuse German: Schmuckreiher Spanish: Garceta nívea

Ardea Thula


, 1782,



Closely related to E. garzetta, which it closely resembles, differing in smaller size, with male wing 260 vs 280 and “typical adult mass” 369 g vs 490–614 g (for males and females in Hungary)#R#R (1); brighter, golden-yellow vs lemon-yellow feet when not breeding, with variable-length yellow stripe extending up rear of tarsus on almost all individuals#R (2); white feathers of forehead not extending so far down towards bill base (i.e. lore colour extends more as bridge over base of mandible)#R (ns[1]); when breeding, elongate, bushy, filamentous crest-like crown and neck plumes vs non-elongate crown and neck feathers except for two very long lanceolate (not filamentous) feathers (3); when breeding, longer and strongly recurving (“bouncing”) back plumes (2). Somewhat larger race brewsteri provisionally accepted, but differences possibly trivial or even invalid (based only on average measurements). Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. t. brewsteri Thayer & Bangs, 1909 – SW USA and NW Mexico (Baja California).
  • E. t. thula (Molina, 1782) – from NE & S USA through Caribbean to NE Argentina, and from NW Mexico to S Chile. N birds winter mainly along Gulf coast, in Florida, Caribbean, Central America and N South America.
  • Descriptive notes

    47·5–68 cm; 290–475 g; wingspan 84–91 cm. Plumage basically all white, with (in non-breeding plumage) yellow eyes and lores (note E. garzetta... read more


    Considered highly vocal, especially during intraspecific interactions, with characteristic “rah”... read more


    Wide variety of wetlands with fresh, brackish and salt water, including saltmarshes, mangroves,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Shrimps, small fish (e.g. killifish, topminnows, silversides Menidia and topsmelt Atherinops), frogs, molluscs,... read more


    Season variable, with laying Apr–Jun in N USA, Jan–Jul in Florida, early Apr to mid May in Yucatán (SE Mexico), Mar... read more


    Migratory over most of USA (except in extreme SE), with marked post-breeding dispersal; winters... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Overall population perhaps in excess of 250,000 birds. Suffered massive decline throughout range at beginning of 20th century, due to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 February 2020).