Little Egret at Ponta Delgada, Flores

SeidenreiherA white bird standing calm near the sea. It is the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). A small heron. As you would expect from a heron, this bird is beautiful, graceful and shows long legs, neck and beak. A solitary and patient fisherman, the bird is waiting for low tide to make ambushes in still waters on the rocks. On other occasions, the Little Egret risk more and hunt patiently near the surf. As its name indicates this heron is small, of dimensions clearly inferior to Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus). Compared with the herons that regularly visit the Azores, only Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is smaller than the Little Egret.

All its feathers are white and limpid. On the chest they are longer and form a tuft, in a kind of bib. Also on the back of the head you can see two elongated plumes, but only during the breeding season. Its beak is black and straight and the eyes are yellow. The legs are also black, but the toes, quite characteristic, are bright yellow.

In case of doubt in the identification of this species in the field it is to be remembered that both the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) and the Cattle Egret have the yellow beak. Although the legs are all yellow in the Cattle Egret and dark in the Great Egret. There is one more reason to be in doubt in the identification of this species. And this is with its near-relative from North America, the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). Separation from superficially similar Snowy Egret is generally poorly described in the literature. But it might be possible to spot a Little Egret by virtue of its slightly larger size, grey/blue lore patch, paler iris and longer-headed look. Little Egrets are larger than Snowy Egrets, appearing longer-legged and longer-necked. A good characteristic is the solid black legs and the absence of yellow stripe running up the back of the tarsus in the Little Egret. The yellow on the feet is largely restricted to the toes.

In some places on the Azores the Little Egret can be seen for most of the year, however, the regular occurrence period runs from September to April. Among non-resident species in the Azores, this is one of the most common, being easy to spot. However, large groups are not observed. In the best places, 5 to 7 Little Egret might be found but it is most likely in the Azores to observe isolated birds.

The Little Egret is a highly migratory and dispersive species. Many European breeders migrate south across the Sahara to winter in equatorial Africa. It can be observed in all the islands of the Azores. It prefers coastal habitats, extensions of volcanic rock periodically flooded during high tide and exposed with the retreat of the waters at low tide. The Little Egret particularly likes to eat in shallow waters, especially in the wave zone, in natural pools and small puddles. Consequently Little Egret visit fishing ports and the mouth of streams.

Flores in general has a great potential for birdwatching, especially for American migratory birds, including passerines of several habitats. Habitats include lagoons, streams, woods, coastal areas, small pastures and agricultural fields. This wide variety of habitats allows the observation of an interesting range of resident and migratory birds.

But Flores is convincing not only birding-wise. A few minutes from e.g. the small village of Fajã Grande there are several natural swimming pools, bathing facilities under the waterfalls, two restaurants and a few small pubs, a balneario with a children’s swimming pool and shower facilities.

In order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Western Palearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken dedicated trips to nearby and distant bird areas. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic. Sometimes the yield of images is enriched by bird species, which are very unlikely to show-up in the Western Palearctic. The results in images even of rare Western Palearctic birds are very good. The beautiful image of the blog is only a first impression of what you will find in behind “Picture Shop” very soon. Simply contact bird-lens.com if you need an image of a bird before the newest images are online.

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