Although they live year-round in Florida, we’re now seeing greater numbers of these pristine white wading birds return to their favorite breeding haunts. Over the next month or two, I hope the rookeries will be filled with nesting Great Egrets in their dramatic breeding colors and plumage.
Though I’ve shared the story of the infamous plume trade before, it is always worth retelling:
“Large numbers of Great Egrets were killed in North America, including the Everglades, around the end of the 19th century so that their plumes could be used to decorate hats. In the late 1800s naturalist John James Audubon visited the Everglades, where wading birds had been nesting for thousands of years. Public outrage was growing to put a stop to the mass commercial hunting of wading birds for the plume industry. Sporting one of the most popular plumages, the Great Egret became the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America, founded to protect all species of wading birds from being killed for their feathers. More than 300 Great Egrets were required to yield just one kilogram of feathers,” (National Park Service-Everglades)!!