The Great White Egret in Europe: population increase and range expansion since 1980

Published on 14 January 2014 in Main articles

Łukasz Ławicki

Abstract The European breeding and non-breeding populations of the Great White Egret Ardea alba have increased dramatically since 1980. During this period the breeding range has expanded to the north and west, and the species has nested for the first time in 13 countries, including Sweden and England. Since 2000 there has also been a substantial increase in the wintering populations in western and central Europe, where the species formerly wintered in small numbers or only occasionally, with flocks of several hundred individuals reported from some countries. Changes in the availability of foraging habitat and food, the cessation of persecution and related human-induced mortality, improved legal protection, and climate change have probably all played a part in the patterns described here.

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A flock of Great White Egrets Ardea alba in the Barycz River Valley, Poland, October 2011. The fishponds in the Barycz valley are the most important area for this species in Poland during the non-breeding season, when more than 2,000 individuals congregate here. Pic by Wiesław Dzięgielewski/BirdWatching.pl

A flock of Great White Egrets Ardea alba in the Barycz River Valley, Poland, October 2011. The fishponds in the Barycz valley are the most important area for this species in Poland during the non-breeding season, when more than 2,000 individuals congregate here. Pic by Wiesław Dzięgielewski/BirdWatching.pl