|Great White Egret Ardea alba
(aka Great Egret, Common Egret, Egretta alba, Casmerodius albus. See foot of page for references)
Brazilian name: garça-branca-grande
Colombian name: Garza Real
|Brazil & Colombia
There are 4 sub-species of the Great White Egret. A. alba alba, the main Old World sub-species differs from A. alba egretta, the New World sub-species, as shown in these photos, in having a dark bill during the breeding season as opposed to a yellow bill with a dark tip. Outside the breeding season the bill is all yellow as seen in the second photo. Another feature of the breeding season is the ornamental plumes.
|It was these plumes that led this bird close to extinction just
before the First World War. Fashion demanded that ladies' hats be festooned with feathers of
many kinds but the most coveted were those from the Great White Egret, the Snowy Egret, the Little Egret and the White-necked
Heron. It took 300 Great Egrets to produce 1 kilo of plumes and the plumes sold for twice the
value of the same weight as gold.
In Paris about 10,000 people were employed in this trade. In London, one firm alone used annually the plumes of over 200,000 slaughtered Great Egrets.
|As if this wasn't bad enough, remember that the plumes are only on the bird during the breeding season, so how many eggs and chicks were left abandoned by the ladies of fashion in Europe and North America.|
Payne, R.B. & C.J. Risley (1976) Systematics and evolutionary relationships among the herons (Ardeidae). Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan 150:1-115
Sheldon, F.H. (1987) Phylogeny of herons estimated from DNA-DNA hybridization data. Auk 104(1):97-108.
|There are recordings and a distribution map on xeno-canto.|
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