The changing status of the Great White Egret in Britain

Published on 07 May 2013 in Main articles

By Chas Holt

Abstract Records of the Great White Egret Ardea alba have increased significantly in Britain in the last 20 years. The species now occurs throughout the year in some parts of the country, and is sufficiently numerous for a population trend based on WeBS Core Counts to be produced. The source of the increase is probably the expanding populations in neighbouring countries, particularly the Netherlands – where there is now an established breeding population and 2,000+ wintering individuals – and France. The species’ habitat requirements are reviewed in relation to research findings from the Netherlands and elsewhere, which may be relevant to the continued expansion of the British population. Following successful breeding by Great White Egrets on the Somerset Levels in 2012, further breeding attempts in Britain are likely, especially in response to appropriate wetland habitat creation and sympathetic management, and particularly through landscape-scale initiatives.

Great White Egret and Little Egret, Meare Heath, Somerset, March 2011. To what extent will the Great White replicate the expansion of the Little Egret across lowland England in the next decade or two? Pic by Jeff Hazell

Great White Egret and Little Egret, Meare Heath, Somerset, March 2011. To what extent will the Great White replicate the expansion of the Little Egret across lowland England in the next decade or two? Pic by Jeff Hazell

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