Great white Egret
Great Egret or Great White Egret - Ardea alba - Grande Aigrette
The Great Egret or Great White Egret, (Ardea alba), is a common
sight in much of France but this is a relatively recent phenomena.
As short a time ago as the 1980’s they were a rare winter visitor
and only to be seen occasionally in the very south of France in
Camargue and yet 100 years before that they were abundant in the
country much the same as today.
The fight back in breeding populations in Eastern Europe is a long story, (links below), but in France the first breeding record following the National extinction was in 1994, when two pairs nested in the Camargue (Marion & Marion 1994), and by 2000 the French population was estimated at 15–20 breeding pairs.
This increased to 69 pairs in 2004, 142 pairs in 2007 and 160–200 pairs in 2008 (Dubois et al. 2008, 2012; Marion 2009). The most important site is Lake Grand-Lieu, Loire-Atlantique, in western France, where 144–165 pairs bred in 2008–10 (Reeber 2011; Sébastien Reeber pers. comm.).
In 1998–2002 the wintering population was estimated at 900–2,500 birds (BirdLife International 2004) but it has since increased to 4,000–5,000 (Dubois et al. 2008; Frédéric Jiguet pers. comm.) and it’s reasonably safe to say that the population has continued to grow.
The Egrets were usually killed on the nest or when nesting as this is when they have their mating plumes.
About the Great White Egret
They are a large all white bird and in common with all Egrets a member of the Heron family. They stand up to 1 metre tall and are only slightly smaller than the Grey Heron Ardea cinereawith whom they share many common behavioural characteristics. Apart from size, the Great Egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season.
They will be seen mostly near water especially lakes or in Mairais,
(marshes), often roosting in trees when not feeding. In winter they will
be seen standing in fields in the same way as their close cousins Grey
cinerea), where they catch similar passing prey of small reptiles,
small mammals, insects and worms. When feeding in lakes and wetlands
their diet also includes amphibians, small grass snakes and fish but in
all cases prey is captured by either standing motionless or by stalking
slowly then spearing with their long sharp bill.
The Great White Egret in Europe: population increase and range expansion since 1980 - LINK HERE