The Little Egret is a small white heron with white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in reasonable numbers in 1989 from France and first bred here in Dorset in 1996. It is now on numerous south coast sites, both as a breeding species and as a winter visitor. You won’t find them in Fairfield Park, but you can see them on the river Ivel at Jordans Mill.
Little Egrets are 55–65cm long, with a wingspan of 88–95 cm, and weigh 400 to 500 grams. There are about 700 breeding pairs in England, but overall numbers increase in the winter as more come here from colder European countries.
Like all herons they eat fish, standing very still in shallow water until the fish swim into range and then striking very swiftly with their long beaks. They also eat frogs and snails.
The little egret’s nest is a stick platform in a tree, often with other heron-type species. Three or four blue/green eggs with a smooth but non glossy surface are laid in late April or May and are incubated by both parents for 21 to 25 days. The incubation changeover involves an elaborate ritual of bowing and nodding. There is only one brood each year.
The Little Egret is not an endangered species and is gradually expanding its range in England. If you go to Jordans Mill to look for it then do also look out for the blue streak of the kingfisher along the river there.