The Great Egret is the largest and tallest of the egrets found in Australia. It is a snowy white bird with a very long and slender neck and long black legs.
For most of the time the bill is yellow but during the breeding season it becomes black and the skin around the base of the bill turns green. At this time it also develops fine wispy plumes that hang off its back and reach down below the tail. The bill has fine serrated gripping edges for holding onto slippery active prey. The long neck can be held out stiff and straight when the bird is hunting for food, or kinked into an s-shape.
It moves slowly while hunting and often stands motionless with its neck poised to strike. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects and other invertebrates make up its diet. Having such long legs helps when wading in a lake or river.
It flies with deep, slow wingbeats and holds its neck folded back with its legs trailing out well behind the tail. Its call is generally made up of harsh croaks. The main habitats for the bird are freshwater wetlands, dams, rivers, tidal mudflats, flooded pastures and irrigation areas.
The breeding season in Southern Australia is from October to December. They nest in colonies with herons, ibis and spoonbills. The nest is a large rough, shallow platform of sticks placed in the fork of a tree standing in water. The nest is usually high in the tree and open to the sky for easy access. They lay two to five eggs which both sexes incubate for about a month. The young leave the nest after about two months.
Look for Great Egrets in the ponds of the Parklands where they might be poised to strike.