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Egrets

Egret, near Limantour Beach

An egret is any of several types of heron, most of which are white or buff. Many egrets are members of the genera Egretta or Ardea, both of which contain other species that are named as “herons” rather than as “egrets.”

The word “egret” comes from the French “aigrette,” which refers to the long filamentous feathers evident on the egret’s back during the breeding season.

The Great Egret (above) has been classified as a member of Casmerodius, Egretta, or Ardea! This one was fishing in a marsh near Limantour Beach. The distinction between an egret and a heron is apparently rather vague and seems to depend more on appearance than biology. (Scary.) In 1953, the Great Egret was chosen as the symbol of the National Audubon Society, which was organized in part to help prevent the killing of egrets for their feathers. In fact, the URL (Uniform Resource Locator, in case you are ever asked…and often pronounced “Earl”) for the Audubon Canyon Ranch on Highway 1 north of San Francisco and near Stinson Beach (and the ever-elusive Bolinas :-) ) is http://www.egret.org. The Great Egret can reach 101 cm (39.8 inches) in height and weigh up to 950 g (2.1 pounds).

In searching around for DNA studies of egret and heron taxonomy, I found some (for which I was thankful)! :-) “Google it” and you will too! But once again, I will remain content to photograph the magnificent birds, while the ornithologists “duke” this out!

I DID, however, find this article on the biogeography of the Great Egret (Ardea alba) from a student at San Francisco State University, which may be worth a read!

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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