Bird Database

Snowy Egret

(Egretta thula)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Human disturbance

Conservation Actions

Minimize human disturbance at nesting sites

Snowy Egret

(Egretta thula)

Like other herons and egrets, the Snowy Egret was hunted for its plumes in the 1800s, so much so that populations along the Atlantic coast retracted from New Jersey to Florida. Protections implemented in the early 20th century allowed populations to recover, and now the species nests as far north as Maine. It has never been recorded nesting in New Hampshire, but this is but an artefact of geopolitics. It was first recorded breeding on Appledore Island, in the Maine portion of the Isles of Shoals, in 1961, and reached a peak count of over 200 pairs in the late 1970s. After abandoning that colony in 2002, birds returned in 2020.

Appledore is likely the source for most of the Snowy Egrets seen along the coast from May to September. When nesting they make regular trips to our salt marshes for fish, crustaceans, and marine worms, and bring these back to hungry young out on the island. Chicks are fed partially regurgitated food; this is regurgitated directly into the nest when they are young but into their mouths as they get older. After the breeding season, both adults and yearlings will continue to fly to the nesting island to roost for the night.

Unlike our other common herons, the Snowy Egret is rarely found away from salt water. Inland records are primarily from the Connecticut and Merrimack Valleys and clustered in late April/early May and late July to early September. If you see a small white egret away from the coast however, make sure it’s not an immature Little Blue Heron, which is just as likely inland as Snowy in the fall. Snowy can usually be distinguished by its bright yellow feet, but if these are not visible you’ll need to use other field marks.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Snowy Egret
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count