Freak Egret - Intermediate Morph Little Egret(?)

To: 'Steve Kerr' <>, "" <>
Subject: Freak Egret - Intermediate Morph Little Egret(?)
From: Stephen Murray <>
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 22:31:13 +0000
Hi Steve. 
What about leucistic White-faced Heron? Dark bill and yellow legs fits.
Steve Murray

-----Original Message-----
From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of 
Steve Kerr
Sent: Saturday, 27 June 2015 8:21 PM
Subject: [Birding-Aus] Freak Egret - Intermediate Morph Little Egret(?)


On some Saturday mornings, I drop my daughter off to her tennis fixtures and 
then go to the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens with the scope to see what 
interesting things have taken up residence in Murray and Yeppen lagoons.  This 
morning, as well as seeing the largest flock of Freckled Ducks I have seen here 
(about 60 birds with the bills on the males coloured up nicely), 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.

Unfortunately, the bird was at the far north-western end of Yeppen Lagoon which 
is private property so I had to be satisfied with viewing from some 200 metres 
away on the public walking path from the gardens through Diggers Park. 
Visually, it was very spectacular with the contrasting coloured features and I 
tried to take some photos through the scope … very marginal and they do not do 
the bird justice at all … I have uploaded a few very heavily cropped images to …!1728&authkey=!ACleOrOmY1fu84Q&ithint=folder%2cjpg

… apologies for the terrible image quality.

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).

So my question to Birding Aus readers is … What is your experience of non-white 
Little Egrets in Australia or abroad?  How unusual is it? (Generally, I don’t 
see that many unusual things when I go bird watching 😊)


Steve Kerr.

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