That’s because its my favorite spring bird. I saw one fly by yesterday–spectacular! It flew here from south Texas along the Rio Grande Flyway. These lovely herons were nearly driven to extinction because they were shot for their spectacular plumes to decorate women’s hats. Ultimately the Massachusetts Audubon Society succeeded in pushing through the first federal-level conservation legislation in the U.S., the Lacey Act of 1900. That ended plumage hunts. Read more history about that here. On this International Migratory Bird Day, the Cornell Lab of Birds adds the following fun facts about my fave heron:
- Male and female Snowy Egrets take turns incubating their eggs. As one mate takes over for the other, it sometimes presents a stick, almost as if passing a baton. Both parents continue caring for the young when they hatch.
- During the breeding season, adult Snowy Egrets develop long, wispy feathers on their backs, necks, and heads. In 1886 these plumes were valued at $32 per ounce, which was twice the price of gold at the time. Plume-hunting for the fashion industry killed many Snowy Egrets and other birds until reforms were passed in the early twentieth century. The recovery of shorebird populations through the work of concerned citizens was an early triumph and helped give birth to the conservation movement.
- Adult Snowy Egrets have greenish-yellow feet for most of the year, but at the height of the breeding season their feet take on a much richer, orange-yellow hue. The bare skin on their face also changes color, from yellow to reddish.
- Snowy Egrets sometimes mate with other heron species and produce hybrid offspring. They have been known to hybridize with Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Cattle Egrets.
- The oldest Snowy Egret on record was at least 17 years, 7 months old. It was banded in Colorado in 1970 and found in Mexico in 1988.