Freak Egret - Intermediate Morph Little Egret(?)

To: Steve Kerr <>, birding aus <>
Subject: Freak Egret - Intermediate Morph Little Egret(?)
From: Thomas Wilson <>
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 00:15:40 +0000
Hi Steve
Good spot - always something challenging in the world of birding.  I am not 
sure what HBW says about leg colour in dark morphs, but I would expect a Little 
Egret to have dark legs.  The yellow legs and the last photo where the birds 
looks smaller than the accompanying (and slightly further away) Glossy Ibis 
would make me think that you possibly found a Pied Heron in a strange plumage?
Tom Wilson

Steve Kerr wrote:
...I also encountered a very unusual looking egret - a mixture of brilliant 
white and dark grey blue.  The wings and head were white with only a few blue 
flecks in the wings but the body and much of the neck was dark. The legs were a 
bright yellow/green. In terms of size and behaviour (very active feeding and 
short flights around the area), it was a perfect match for a Little Egret - 
which is a commonly sighted bird in the area although I didn’t actually see one 
(properly white) this morning.
 … I have uploaded a few very heavily cropped images to …!1728&authkey=!ACleOrOmY1fu84Q&ithint=folder%2cjpg
...This evening going through HBW Alive ( , I see that there can be 
dark morphs of Little Egrets although they don’t have any photos or plates of 
anything other than the standard white form.  A Google Image search turns up 
quite a few relatively uniform dark Little Egret images - they look something 
like a dark morph Reef Egret reshaped as a Little Egret.  In amongst them, I 
see a few images tagged as ‘Intermediate Morph’ Little Egrets - particularly on and mostly from India and Sri Lanka.  Most of these 
birds are really rather streaky and gradual in colour gradation between white 
and dark and none of them have yellow legs. But I guess the lesson here is that 
they can be rather variable.  I haven’t been able to find any reference to 
non-white morphs of the Intermediate or Plumed Egret* but the size and 
behaviour really lead me to doubt that it is anything other than Egretta 
garzetta. (* I see that HBW have split up the Intermediate Egret into three 
species and the Australian form is given its old name again … I wasn’t aware of 
this nor if it is widely accepted or not).

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