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Pacific or Eastern Reef Egret
Egretta sacra

Pelecaniformes Order – Ardeidae family

Length: 57-66 cm
Wingspan: 90-110 cm
Weight: 400 g

Eastern Reef Egret’s species shows two colour forms, one white and the other slate-grey.
This species resembles White-faced Heron, but Eastern Reef Egret is slate-grey on entire body, including the head, and has heavier bill.
Eastern Reef Egret in white form has white body and wings, green-yellow lores, yellow and grey bill, and dull yellow-grey legs and feet.

Eastern Reef Egret in dark form has slate-grey body and wings. Throat is slightly streaked with white. Bill is grey-brown. Legs and feet are bluish-grey.
Both forms have yellow eyes. This species has very short legs.
In breeding plumage, Eastern Reef Egret shows fine veil of feathers on back, and we can see a slight crest on the head.
The two forms interbreed and we can find both dark and white chicks in the same brood. White phase is common in the Pacific, and dark morph is usual in New Zealand.

Eastern Reef Egret is usually silent, but it utters hoarse, guttural croaks if disturbed at nest.

Eastern Reef Egret favours isolated rocky shores, beaches, tidal streams, mangroves and coral reefs.

Eastern Reef Egret lives in coasts and islands of most of Australia, but mainly on Queensland coast and Great Barrier Reef.
This species is found in many areas of Asia, in the oceanic region of India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Polynesia, and in Australia, Tasmania (now rare) and New Zealand.
Eastern Reef Egret is sedentary in its range. It is a coastal bird, rarely seen inland.

Eastern Reef Egret usually hunts alone. It is dependent of rise and fall of tides for feeding. They hunt by both day and night, searching for fish, crustaceans and insects.
Eastern Reef Egret moves slowly along water edges, searching for prey. Typical posture shows the bird with body hold in a crouched attitude, neck drawn back, and head fixed horizontally. It catches the prey by shooting out its neck, and jabbing the prey with its pointed bill.

If water is shallow and quiet, Eastern Reef Egret can fish standing motionless with open wings forming as umbrellas, in order to reduce reflections and attract fish.
Eastern Reef Egret is usually seen alone or in pairs. It rests in small groups perched in trees.

When flying from feeding area to another, Eastern Reef Egret flies low over rocks and sea, with quiet, downwards beats.

Eastern Reef Egret breeds all year round. It nests in solitary pairs or in small colonies. This species favours caves, crevices, rock shelves, but it also uses hollows under coastal trees, shrubs or rock ledges and in trees in wooded islands.

Nest is a platform made with sticks, and lined with sea weeds. Nest may be reused. Birds add nest materials, and the platform becomes very bulky.
Female lays 2 to 3 pale greenish-blue eggs. Incubation lasts about 28 days, by both parents which share all duties of nesting and rearing.
Young remain at nest for about 6 weeks, but family stays together for several weeks after chicks have left the nest.

Eastern Reef Egret feeds mainly on fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Eastern Reef Egret is a secretive heron, widespread in some parts of the range, but not common. Nesting birds can be disturbed by boats.
This species is protected by law.    

Fr: Aigrette sacrée
All : Riffreiher
Esp : Garceta de Arrecife
Ital : Garzetta di Reef
Nd : Oostelijke Rifreiger
Russe : Цапля тихоокеанская рифовая
Sd : Korallhäger 

Photographs by Didier Buysse
His website :Vision d’Oiseaux

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :        

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

New Zealand birds and birding (Narena Olliver)


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