No regrets as Egrets arrive in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 21:47 29 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 March 2010

The egret has landed

EGRETS, we've got a few! Once more at home on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, they are now settling on the banks of the River Orwell.

The egret has landed

EGRETS, we've got a few! Once more at home on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, they are now settling on the banks of the River Orwell.

During the early 1990s, the little egret, which looks like a small white heron, was virtually unheard of in this country.

Gradually the birds started to set up home in the south of England, but now more and more of them can be spotted further north around Felixstowe.

In the last five years their numbers appear to be rapidly increasing, although Mick Wright, the Trimley Marshes Reserve Warden, said he is not sure why.

He said it could possibly be the global warming factor that is attracting the birds further north.

Breeding is another consideration but egrets do not tend to mate until around March time.

Stragglers from the south have turned up on other coastlines before now, but the colonies of birds on the banks of the Orwell are just getting bigger and bigger.

Last year there were around ten pairs of the birds nesting along the banks of the Suffolk river, but this year that figure has shot up to around 47.

Mr Wright believes that the birds, which can be found all over the world, could be an overspill from a French colony or from the south of the country where they tend to be more prevalent.

He said: "When you see them there you know you have something different.

"They are around half the size of a heron. Some birds are starting to disappear but this looks like one we have gained."

The birds are easily recognisable – pure white with black, dagger like beaks, long necks and

yellow feet, they roost in large numbers

sometimes totalling more than 100 at time.

During the day they can fly miles to find food but always come back to the same spot to roost.

Around 20 years ago, the birds were so rare that their arrival would attract bird watchers from miles around.

Mr Wright said: "They are coming in from as far away as Essex to roost here.

"They do move around though and I have seen a couple in Levington."

The birds can also be seen feeding in the salt marshes in the Shotley area and like herons they feed off anything they can find.

n In the breeding season the egret acquires head plumes and trailing plumes on its back.

n Active feeders, they often chase after fish in shallow water and stab with great accuracy.

n Little egrets feed mainly on fish and small shore-dwelling animals although one has been spotted eating hawthorn berries from a bush!

n Peak numbers at roost sites tend to occur in late August and early September – some birds tend to disperse to smaller sites as winter progresses.

n During cold weather egrets are often seen inland along rivers and streams.

n The birds often rest in a hunched up position with head and neck hidden and can be confused with the mute swan.

n The first influx of little egrets into Britain from north-

western France occurred in 1989.

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