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Common egret (Egretta alba)—R.F. Head from The National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers
Any of several species (mainly in the genus Egretta) of wading birds in the same family (Ardeidae) as herons and bitterns. Egrets live in marshes, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments worldwide. They catch and eat small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and crustaceans. They nest in trees and bushes or on the ground. Most are white and develop long plumes for the breeding season. The value of plumes as ornamental objects once drove egrets to near-extinction, but changes in fashion and strict conservation measures have allowed their numbers to increase. The great white egret is about 35 in. (90 cm) long; other common species average 20–24 in. (50–60 cm) long.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on egret, visit Britannica.com.