The fence around the Burrowing Owl preserve had been promptly repaired — kudos to the City for that! — but the owls may be waiting for the scene to settle down before coming in. None were in sight Friday or Saturday morning. But once again, there was consolation. A spectacular Great Egret stood on rocks about halfway between the park entrance and the Open Circle artwork. You could spot this giant bird against the dark rip-rap from a mile away. He or she paid no attention to humans on the path above. Preening was the business at hand, or rather at beak. Tiny pieces of feathery fluff clung to its otherwise deadly facial spear.
The Cornell bird lab website has these Cool Facts about Great Egrets:
“The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.
Not all young that hatch survive the nestling period. Aggression among nestlings is common and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings. This behavior, known as siblicide, is not uncommon among birds such as hawks, owls, and herons, and is often a result of poor breeding conditions in a given year.
The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.
In mixed-species colonies, Great Egrets are often the first species to arrive, and their presence may induce nesting among other species.
Great Egrets fly slowly but powerfully: with just two wingbeats per second their cruising speed is around 25 miles an hour.
Though it mainly hunts while wading, the Great Egret occasionally swims to capture prey or hovers (somewhat laboriously) over the water and dips for fish.
The oldest known Great Egret was 22 years, 10 months old and was banded in Ohio.”