Egret and Heron in the Beaufort & Hilton Head Area
Egrets and Herons are probably the most photographed & painted birds in the entire Low country. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, white egrets were hunted to near extinction. During this period, over 95% of the population were killed for their feathers, which were a very popular trend in ladies fashion, particularly for hat decorations.
The Great Egret
The egret is actually a white heron. The largest is the Great Egret and is identified by its large white body and long black legs. This bird is the symbol for the National Audubon Society, which was formed to protect birds from being killed for their feathers. The Great Egret can be found feeding on fish and other tidal marine life in pools and tidal flats, usually along side Great Blue Herons. They are very graceful when flying. These birds seem to know when a camera is being pointed at them and will fly just as you are ready to shoot the picture.
The Snowy Egret is a smaller version identified by yellow feet, black beak and yellow around eyes. The Snowy Egret will usually allow closer camera shots, as they are not skittish as the Great Egret. They often land near people on the beach when feeding.
Cattle Egrets have a yellow bill and black legs, but much shorter & stockier. Usually has a reddish wash over the head, back & chest.
The Great Blue Heron
This is the largest of the Heron, and is identified by its gray-blue body and yellow beck. It is found feeding in calm tidal pools and on the river banks, particularly during low tides. It is usually very difficult to sneak up on these birds. The Great Blue Heron will often bluff other birds into retreat when they get to close while feeding. Young children often say they resemble dinosaur birds when flying.