Eastern great egret

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The eastern great egret (Ardea modesta) belongs to the family Ardeidae.

The eastern great egret is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, southern and eastern Asia and Australia.


  • Scientific Name: Ardea modesta
  • Common Name: Eastern great egret
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: J.E. Gray, 1831
Earlier the eastern great egret was considered as a subspecies of great egret, Ardea alba. Later it was elevated to full species status (Kushlan & Hancock 2005; Christidis & Boles 2008).


The eastern great egrets are moderately large birds. They measure 80 to 100 cm in length and weigh 700 to 1,200 grams.

They have a white plumage and black bill. Breeding birds have yellow bill. The legs are red or black. The breeding birds have long neck plumes. Their neck is very long; one and a half times as long as their own body. They roost in large flocks.
Indian birds - Eastern great egret - Ardea modesta
Indian birds - Eastern great egret - Ardea modesta


The eastern great egret is found to occur in a wide range of wetland habitats and shallow waters. They are seen both in freshwater and saline habitats. They are found in marshes, swamps, river mud flats, margin of rivers, lakes, ponds, flooded grasslands, pastures, agricultural lands, tidal streams, mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons and offshore reefs.

Feeding habits

While feeding eastern great egrets often occur solitarily or in small groups. These egret species feed on fish, frogs, small reptiles, small birds, rodents, insects, crustaceans and molluscs. They secure the prey by stabbing or pecking with the bill.


The eastern great egrets nest in colonies, sometimes mixed with other egrets, herons, ibises and cormorants. The breeding season of these egrets varies with local conditions. One brood is raised in a year. The nest is a wide platform with a shallow for eggs and hatchlings. The clutch may consist of two to six blue-green, oval eggs. Both the egret parents incubate the eggs and feed the hatchlings.


These egret species are distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Asia and Australia. Breeding populations are located in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, China, Korea, north-eastern Russia, Japan, Indo-China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

Movement Patterns

After the breeding season, these egrets disperse widely in parts of their range. They also appear to migrate.

Status and conservation

The global population size of the eastern great egret is estimated at approximately 60,000 to 300,000 individuals. Persistent environmental contamination, alteration of existing wetland habitat and loss of breeding sites are the main conservation issues. Nests and eggs are vulnerable to crows and other birds. Nestlings are vulnerable to a variety of predators including ravens/crows, raptors and aquatic animals.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the eastern great egret species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".
Biological classification of Ardea modesta
Species:A. modesta
Binomial name:Ardea modesta
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, south and east Asia, Australia;
Feeding habits:fish, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, frogs, lizards, snakes and small birds and mammals;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Egret_(Casmerodius_albus)-_Breeding_plumage_at_Sultanpur_I_Picture_257.jpg
Author: J.M.Garg | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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