WatchList Species Account for Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Reddish Egret

Photo: Gary Smyle

With an estimated 2,000 pairs, the Reddish Egret is North America’s rarest heron. Before 1900 it was nearly extirpated from the U.S. by plume hunters. In the U.S., it is virtually limited to coastal lagoons in the Gulf States, with the greatest number, some 1,500 pairs, in Texas. In Florida, where it was unreported from 1927 to 1937, there are now some 350-400 pairs. It breeds also in the West Indies and the Bahamas, and in scattered localities on both coasts of Mexico. Some birds withdraw from the breeding range as far as Venezuela.


Since 1970 there have been increased sightings of the bird in Central and South America, which may reflect increasing numbers but also could be the result of more observers. The bird has a dark morph, predominating in the U.S. and Mexico, and a white morph, more common in the Bahamas and Greater Antilles.


Nesting habitats in Florida and the West Indies are mangrove keys and dredge islands in mangroves, but in Texas this egret nests on natural and artificial islands in low vegetation, often in mixed colonies with other herons. It forages on shallow flats, ponds and lagoons near the coast, often in hypersaline flats and lagoons. Its food is primarily small fish.


Coastal development and consequent loss of habitat are the most important threat to the species.