Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret


The great egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret, large egret, or (in the Old World) great white egret or great white heron is a large, widely distributed egret, with four subspecies found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe. Distributed across most of the tropical and warmer temperate regions of the world, it builds tree nests in colonies close to water.

Distribution And Habitat

The Great Egret occurs worldwide including the West Indies (Raffaele and others 1998), where it is a common resident species in Puerto Rico (Oberle 2018). This species occurs in freshwater and saltwater ponds, canals, mangroves, lagoons, moist grassy fields, and urban streams (Oberle 2018). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 465 records within 253 hexagons or 53 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 253 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 3 percent (8) of the hexagons, probable in 2 percent (5), and possible in 1 percent (2), while the species was observed in 94 percent (238) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Great Egret distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Great Egret Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Great Egret breeds and roosts colonially and builds a loose platform of sticks on a tree branch or in a shrub, primarily from April to June, according to previously published reports (Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results indicate that most breeding activity for this species occurs during March, April, and May (see chart). Atlas findings 147Great Egret/Garza Realshow that the Great Egret breeds within the subtropical moist and subtropical dry forest life zones in the lowlands (47 and 40 percent of the hexagons, respectively), and also within the subtropical wet forest life zone (13 percent of the hexagons) in the mountains (see table and map).


The overall population trend for the Great Egret is unknown, but since this species has an extremely large range, it is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2019). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Great Egret has a protected habitat in land of 7 percent or 25 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (359 km2).