Little egret

Little Egret

©Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Little egret

Scientific name: Egretta garzetta
The elegant little egret was once a rare visitor to our shores, but can now regularly be spotted around the coastline of England and Wales. Look out for its beautiful neck plumes that herald the breeding season.

Species information


Length: 60cm

Wingspan: 92cm

Weight: 450g
Average lifespan: 5 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The little egret is a small, white heron that feeds on small fish and crustaceans. Once a very rare visitor from the Mediterranean, little egrets are now a common sight around the coasts of southern England and Wales as they expand their range, possibly due to increasing temperatures caused by climate change. It first bred in the UK on Brownsea Island, Dorset, in 1996, and has been moving northwards ever since; it was recorded as breeding in Berkshire for the first time in 2007.

How to identify

The little egret is a white heron with black legs and yellow feet. It has a black bill and long plumes on its head and neck during the breeding season.


Found around the coasts and estuaries of England and Wales, more rarely in Scotland and inland.

Did you know?

The long neck plumes of little egrets were once more valuable than gold and were smuggled into Europe during the 19th century. As a result, little egret populations plummeted until laws were put in place to protect them.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with researchers, scientists and other conservationists to monitor changes in our wildlife in order to be able to react to the adverse effects of climate change. You can help: volunteer for your local Trust and you'll be able to monitor populations and survey habitats, adding to a growing bank of data on the effects of climate change.


Little Egret by Tom Hibbert