Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades
By Rick Ferren
There are a number of large white birds commonly seen in the Everglades that are easily confused by the first-time observer. After a little study, however, the differences become clear.
Great White Heron (Ardea herodias). At 50 inches in height, the great white heron, the largest heron in the Everglades, is actually considered a "morph" or color variation of the great blue heron. It's distinguished by yellow legs and a yellow bill. Some experts believe it may one day again be given separate species status.
Great Egret (Casmerodius albus). Often mistaken as a great white heron, great egrets stand about 40 inches tall. They have a yellow bill but are most easily distinguished from the larger heron by their black legs.
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). This bird is easily distinguished by its slate colored head and neck. Wood storks also have black wing tips and stand about 40 inches tall.
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus). About 25 inches tall, white ibis are easily distinguished by their long, down-curved red bill and red legs. They also have black wing tips.
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). Standing 24 inches tall, snowy egrets have a black bill and black legs with yellow feet sometimes referred to as golden slippers.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). Only 20 inches tall, cattle egrets are buff colored on their head, chest, and back. They have yellowish legs and a short yellow beak.
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) (white phase). Immature little blue herons are all white with dull, olive-colored legs and a pale bluish bill tipped in black. They stand about 24 inches tall.
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) (white phase). Less commonly seen, immature reddish egrets stand about 30 inches tall. They are all white with bluish legs and a pink bill with a black tip.