What’s the difference between the Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, and Great Egret?
The Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia or Mesophoyx intermedia), and the Great Egret (Ardea alba melanorhynchos or Casmerodius albus melanorhynchos) have all white plumage (feathers).
The Little Egret has a black beak. The Intermediate Egret has a shorter, thicker yellow beak that may turn red or black in the breeding season. The Great Egret has a long, thin, yellow beak that may become darker in the breeding season.
The Little Egret does not have a black line underneath its eye. The breeding adult Intermediate Egret has a black line underneath its eye, but it does not extend past the eye. The Great Egret has a fine black line from its beak to beyond its eye (like eye-liner underneath the eye).
The Little Egret has black legs and yellow-soled feet. The Intermediate Egret and the Great Egret have black legs and feet.
The Little Egret is about 65 centimetres (26 inches) tall, with a wingspan up to 106 centimetres (42 inches). The Intermediate Egret is about 72 centimetres (28 inches) tall, with a wingspan up to 115 centimetres (45 inches). The Great Egret is about 100 centimetres (39 inches) tall, with a wingspan up to 170 centimetres (67 inches).
The Little Egret and the Intermediate Egret have a slight kink in the neck. The Great Egret has a noticeable S-shaped kink in the neck.
The Little Egret has two long feathers on the back of their necks during breeding season. The Intermediate Egret and the Great Egret do not have the two long feathers on their napes during breeding season.
The Little Egret often runs after its prey. The Intermediate Egret tends to stalk its prey in an upright position with its neck extended forward. The Great Egret is more patient, and will stand still for a long time to wait until prey come nearby; then it spears its prey with its beak.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM