How to Identify for Egret group?

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Most species of Egret are white, with a fairly similar appearance: long and curved neck, long beak, long slender legs, often appearing in fields, shallow water with many reeds, along lakes. pond or mangrove…

Great, Intermediate and Little Egret
Great, Intermediate and Little Egret

In the present south of Vietnam, we don’t have to go far from Ho Chi Minh City, we can still take a short birding trip in 1 day and see 6 species of Egret, which is interesting. The problem here, how to distinguish them in practice with binoculars, or through the images that you have taken?

With the Egret species, we will not easily to recognize them. Vietnambirds.net would like to send to Bird watching enthusiasts a short article in which we will have tips to distinguish and correctly identify birds in the Egret group.

How to ID for Cattle Egret?

  • The Cattle Egret is a gregarious, white, easily recognized by its foraging association with grazing animals and its exaggerated, head-pumping strut. Its prediliction for grasslands, lawns, pastures, and grazing animals is quite unlike other herons and egrets which generally feed in or along water and not in close association with livestock. In Vietnam, the Cattle Egret is also known as the “flies egret” in reference to the prey of its mostly are flies, but in many languages it is simply called Cow Heron, or Cow Bird, or is named for the wild grazing animal with which it usually associates.
  • In the breeding season: for a brief period during peak of breeding cycle, feather in crown, nape and back are yellow-brown color.
Images of Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret
Images of Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret

How to ID Great Egret and Intermediate Egret?

  • Great Egret : Large, all-white ; 80–104 cm in total length (twice as large as Little Egret) with long, black legs and feet, long neck, and long, all-yellow bill. Characteristic S shape to long neck. Chin feather extent to lower mandible, a half of length from tip bill to eye.
Great Egret
Great Egret
Image of Great Egret and Little Egret
Image of Great Egret and Little Egret
  • Intermediate Egret compare with Little Egret : is larger, with an all-yellow or yellow-orange bill (pink-red at start of breeding), yellow lores (bright green  in courtship  ), horn-coloured eyes (red during courtship) and dark brown to black lower legs and feet.
Image of Intermediate Egret
Intermediate Egret
Intermediate Egret and Little Egret
Intermediate Egret and Little Egret
  • Intermediate Egret is distinguished from Chinese Egret  by being slightly larger, taller and more graceful appearance, habitat choice, different bare-parts colorations : all black leg compare pale yellow leg of Chinese; bright yellow bill with a bit dark tip.
Image of Chinese Egret
Chinese Egret
Great, Intermediate and Little Egret
Great, Intermediate and Little Egret

How to identify for Chinese Egret, Little Egret, Pacific Reef-egret?

1. Follow to the Habitat:

  • Chinese Egret: Mainly coastal, in estuaries and bays, feeding in shallow water along margins of mangroves or on intertidal mudflats; more rarely rocky coasts, rice fields, marshes, coastal freshwater lagoons, salt pans and rivers.
Chinese Egret
Chinese Egret
  • Pacific Reef-egret: Typically coastal, especially rocky shores, coral reefs and offshore islands; also estuaries, mangroves, mudflats and sometimes sandy beaches; sometimes fields, freshwater marshes, rice fields and garbage dumps.
Pacific Reef-egret by Sapba Dabade
Pacific Reef-egret by Sapba Dabade
  • Little Egret: Wide variety, frequenting all kinds of open wetlands, both ephemeral and permanent, with shallow fresh, brackish or salt water (10–15 cm deep), including margins of rivers and lakes, marshes , floodplains, rice fields, irrigated areas, fish ponds, salt pans, sandy beaches, mudflats, coral reefs and mangroves; occasionally in dry fields, even following cattle and other ungulates. Will switch habitats according to season.
Little Egret
Little Egret

2. Body shape (Overall structure):

  • Chinese Egret vs Little Egret : compared with Little Egret is usually larger (though sometimes smaller and slimmer) and heavier- and more symetrically-billed (dagger-shaped) with a proportionately thicker and shorter S-shaped neck, shorter and marginally thicker legs.
  • Pacific Reef-egret vs Chinese egret : has heavier bill, shorter legs, shorter and denser crest, shorter back plumes (not reaching tail). They are noticeably shorter than those of Chinese Egrets, especially the tibia. The legs also appear thicker than Chinese, especially the tibio-tarsal joint.
  • Little Egret: legs longer, bill thinner than Pacific Reef-egret
Egret Model
Egret Model

3. Bill shape and color:

  • Note: all colors are variable, including leg color, beak color and lores skin, so the color criterion is not a decisive criterion for concluding the species name.
  • Little Egret: bill is thinner and more parallel-sided, more pencil-shaped. The base of the lower mandible is frequently pale, but is pinkish or whitish, not strongly yellow. The upper mandible is all dark. The upper line of the loral skin is more or less straight.
Little Egret
Little Egret
Little Egret
  • Chinese Egret : dagger-shaped. The lower mandible is yellow from the base more than half bill length, and the base of the cutting edge of the upper mandible is yellow.  The upper line of the loral skin kinks downward in front of the eye. This creates a distinctive expression even at a distance.
Chinese Egret
Chinese Egret
  • Pacific Reef-egret : bill is heavier than and not as sharp as Chinese or Little. It is variable in colour, and can show the same yellow as Chinese. However, the yellow tends to be more ‘smudgy’ than on Chinese.

If you are looking for bird watching trips in Vietnam, please contact us now:

  • Call +84982928482 Andy Nguyen, or message by Whatsapp, viber with the same number
  • Email: vietnamwildlife2012@gmail.com

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