Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
Photo: Inge Curtis

We start this series of Birds of the Week with a species of sublime beauty and a harrowing history of persecution. The Snowy Egret is a mid-sized heron with plumage so brilliant it looks bleached except for black legs and bright yellow feet. A dagger-like bill extracts food hiding in mudflats where it is often a solitary feeder and occasionally seen in flocks up and down the East Coast or the West Coast through Mexico where this individual was spotted.

You almost hear Tchaikovsky playing when you watch an egret dancing along the shoreline, elegant as a ballerina. Over a century ago this species, and other herons and ibises, were decimated by a millinery trade making elaborate feather head-dresses. But hats off to other women who were appalled at the slaughter and campaigned to abolish the fashion. They helped to build the National Audubon Society and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The Snowy Egret is an icon in bird conservation.

By Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in reproduction & embryology. Career as professor & research director spanned from Cambridge to Cornell's Weill Medical College in NYC. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America. Retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and recover from 'nature deficit disorder'. Currently a visiting scholar at William & Mary.

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