These small white herons still seem quite exotic to me – more a bird of the Nile (or at least the Dordogne) than the Wharfe. Many UK egrets migrate south for the winter, which makes a December sighting seem even more special. These are an adaptable breed that have been in Britain since the eighties, breeding since the nineties. Mind you, if you go to the RSPB’s reserves in the Aire valley you can now get the full set: Little, Great White and Cattle Egrets. The pure white colour of the Little Egret makes them easy to spot, and I like the way their yellow feet contrast with their black legs. During the breeding season they also have long plumes on their heads and necks. The Wildlife Trusts website claims these feathers “were once more valuable than gold and were smuggled into Europe during the 19th century. As a result, little egret populations plummeted until laws were put in place to protect them.” Little Egrets eat a wide variety of prey (eg fish, amphibians, crustaceans, insects, worms), and use a wide variety of methods to catch them - ambushing, chasing, stalking, scavenging. They are also good at capitalising on their prey being disturbed by other creatures.
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