- Federal Status: Not Listed
- FL Status: State-designated Threatened
- FNAI Ranks: G4/S2 (Globally: Apparently Secure/State: Imperiled)
- IUCN Status: NT (Near Threatened)
The reddish egret is the rarest egret species found in North America. This species can reach a length of approximately 27-32 inches (66.6-81.3 centimeters) with a wingspan of 46-48 inches (116.8-121.9 centimeters). The reddish egret has both a dark and white morph (variation in appearance). The dark morph is more common and has a grayish-brown body, with a reddish head and neck. The white morph has a mostly white body, head and neck ,and both dark and white morphs have dark blue legs and feet and a pink bill with a black tip.
The diet of the reddish egret primarily consists of small fish (Lowther and Paul 2002). Reddish egrets have a very distinctive foraging behavior. They run after their prey and can appear to be “dancing” as they jump and weave back and forth with wings spread while hunting.
Reddish egrets breed within large colonies of different species, small groups, or in rare cases, isolated couples. In mainland Florida, they nest between the months of February and June, with the Florida Bay and Keys populations nesting from November to May. Nests are constructed in a platform of sticks on mangrove keys and dredge spoiled islands (island developed from dredged material). Females lay up to three or four eggs and both adults incubate the eggs for approximately 26 days. Young remain in the nest until approximately 45-49 days after hatching.
Reddish egrets inhabit coastal areas, mainly on estuaries near mangroves, and lagoons, but they can also be found on dredge spoiled islands (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). This species can be found year round on the coasts from Florida to the extreme northwest coast of Mexico, and also on the coasts from extreme southern California to Costa Rica, and extreme northwest Mexico to Belize during the winter.
Historically, plume (feather) trading nearly decimated the species. Current threats to reddish egrets are not well understood, but coastal development, recreational disturbance at foraging and breeding sites, habitat degradation, loss of genetic diversity, and increased pressure from predators are of primary concern (Powell et al. 1989, Lowther and Paul 2002, Hunter et al. 2006, American Bird Conservancy 2007, Bates et al. 2009).
American Bird Conservancy. 2007. Top 20 Most Threatened Bird Habitats. ABC Special Report. Plains, Virginia. 48 pages.
Bates, E. M., R. W. DeYoung, and B. M. Ballard. 2009. Genetic diversity and population structure of reddish egrets along the Texas coast. Waterbirds 32: 430- 436.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory. 2001. Field guide to the rare animals of Florida. http://www.fnai.org/FieldGuide/pdf/Egretta_rufescens.PDF.
Hunter, W. C., W. Golder, S. L. Melvin, and J. A. Wheeler. 2006. Southeast United States regional waterbird conservation plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia.
Lowther, Peter E. and Richard T. Paul. 2002. Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.
Powell, G. V. N, R. D. Bjork, J. C. Ogden, R. T. Paul, A. H. Powell, and W. B. Robertson, Jr. 1989. Population trends in some Florida Bay wading birds. Wilson Bulletin 101: 436 457.