FW: Canberra eBirders. Take care with your egret identifications!

To: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: FW: Canberra eBirders. Take care with your egret identifications!
From: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2023 23:29:17 +0000

Hello Kim.  A recurrent topic.  I can’t find a recent contribution, but I notice that the matter was discussed a couple of years ago in Canberra Bird Notes.


Some confusion arises from the treatment of seasonal difference in the books.  I haven’t caught up with the present influx, but the egrets we see here are usually in non (post)-breeding condition with perhaps only a trace of nuptial plumes on the Great (back only) or Intermediate (back and front).  However the Little, on its rare appearances here, has usually had the head plumes.  Little also distinguished by black bill, as that bill colour in Great is briefly held and very unusual here.   The Cattle Egret often has some buffy breeding colour, but not so the ones that were here last Autumn.  In that all-white condition they might be confused with Intermediates. 


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Kim Farley via Canberrabirds
Sent: Sunday, 26 February 2023 6:31 PM
To: Canberra birds <>
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Canberra eBirders. Take care with your egret identifications!


At present we have both Little Egrets and Intermediate Egrets at Jerrabomberra Wetlands, with many sightings reported to eBird by many birders. There is also a Great Egret lurking about, though there have been many fewer reports of this bird. Mixed groups of Little and Intermediates are being reported, with the photos to prove it. 


For our newer birders in particular, please be aware that egret identification can be tricky.  As an example, bill colour in each species will vary depending on the bird's age and breeding status. And while comparative size is a good indicator, including neck length, head length and body length, this is most helpful when the egret is seen near another more well known bird species. 


There are lots of resources to help with egret identification (and indeed any bird species). These include hard copy field guides (and their apps if they have one), eBird's Explore Species, and Birdlife Australia's Birdife photography library. Geoffrey Dabb circulated a very useful (and brief) pdf file on egrets this time last year. Perhaps he will send this again? 


In the meantime, it is going to take me some time to review all the egret records submitted to eBird in the last few days - especially where close up photos have not been possible or when field notes are too brief to enable me to review the sighting. Be aware that notes that say simply "continuing bird" will not be enough. 


Happy birding


ACT eBird reviewer

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