Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Western Reef-egret (Egretta gularis)


French: Aigrette à gorge blanche German: Küstenreiher Spanish: Garceta dimorfa
Other common names: Western Reef Heron

Ardea gularis


, 1792,

Senegal River


Closely related to E. thula. Often considered conspecific with E. garzetta#R#R, and known to interbreed at times#R#R, but differs in ecological niche in mangroves and on reefs (1); dark grey to blackish plumage morph (setting aside apparent very rare presence in E. garzetta) (4); larger bill and longer wings (effect size for bill 2.23, score 2). Moreover, there is evidence at least in gularis of sympatric or near-sympatric assortative breeding#R. Distinctions between taxa gularis, schistacea and dimorpha are not very strong or clear, and what unites them seems far greater than what may separate them; dimorpha sometimes considered a separate species#R#R but justification unpublished, and more recent trends favour lumping#R. Three subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. g. gularis (Bosc, 1792) – coastal W Africa from Mauritania to Gabon.
  • E. g. schistacea (Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1828) – coastal E Africa to Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and W, S & SE India; also Sri Lanka in winter.
  • E. g. dimorpha E. J. O. Hartert, 1914 – Madagascar and outlying islands, Seychelles; occurs also on coast of E Africa, where recorded from S Somalia to N Mozambique.
  • Descriptive notes

    55–65 cm; 280–710 g; wingspan 86–104 cm. Thin-bodied, medium-sized white or dark heron, with long, thin neck and bill, dark legs and yellow feet, and... read more


    No known differences from E. garzetta.


    Races gularis/schistacea are coastal, being mainly found on rocky or sandy shores... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet probably very similar to that of E. garzetta, comprising aquatic and terrestrial insects (e.g. locusts), crustaceans and... read more


    Nominate gularis breeds Apr–Jul/Oct; race schistacea Feb–Oct; race dimorpha Apr–Dec (mainly from Jul) in... read more


    Races gularis/schistacea apparently resident and dispersive, with records in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Race gularis local in N parts of W Africa; formerly c. 745 pairs on Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania, more recently c. 1900 nests... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Western Reef-egret (Egretta gularis). 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 14 November 2019).