Great egrets are bright white wading birds that live in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. These birds have S-curved necks, relatively small heads, dagger-like bills, small rounded eyes, and long legs. However, some other birds are out there that look quite similar to great egrets, which may confuse you.
If you want to tell them apart, you need an appropriate reply to this query, “which birds look like egrets?” Great egret look-alike birds are white forms of great blue herons, juvenile little blue herons, wood storks, roseate spoonbills, American white ibises, whooping cranes, American white pelicans, white storks, and some egret species, like snowy and cattle egrets.
Are you willing to know some heron-like birds? The BirdsAdvice has a piece of freshly-written content on similar birds to great blue herons. You can take a look at that article or continue scrolling this one until the final words.
Birds That Look Similar To Great Egrets
01. Great White Heron
Great white herons, also known as the white color morph of the great blue herons, are usually found in shallow marine waters. These birds are mostly out there in the Caribbean, the Yucatan Peninsula, and some coastal areas of the United States, particularly southern Florida.
- Great white herons are white overall
- They have straight, pointed, hefty bills.
- They have S-curved necks and relatively small heads.
- Their heads have some plumes (not always visible)
- Their eyes are rounded small, and their legs are long.
Thanks to the white plumage overall, great white herons look pretty similar to great egrets. Both species have S-curved necks, relatively small heads, small rounded eyes, long legs, and pointed bills. Most importantly, these wading birds look alike when in flight.
Great white herons are larger than great egrets. These birds have much heftier bills than their lookalikes. While head plumes are sometimes visible on great white herons (particularly in breeding seasons), great egrets don’t have any head plumes.
02. Little Blue Heron (Juvenile)
Little blue herons are mostly out there in much of North America, the Caribbean, and Central America. Juvenile little blue herons are usually found in many shallowly flooded habitats, including estuarine marshes, coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
- Juvenile little blue herons are entirely white under the age of 1 year.
- They have thin bills with a black tip and pale greenish-blue base.
- They have white flight feathers and dusky wingtips.
- Their eyes are yellow to white with pale cobalt lores.
- The legs and feet are greenish-yellow to light grey.
Juvenile little blue herons are entirely white, just like great egrets. Both species have straight bills, S-curved necks, relatively small heads, long legs, and small rounded eyes. When in flight, you can see white flight feathers in both wading birds.
In terms of size, juvenile little blue herons are smaller than great egrets. Compared to great egrets, juvenile little blue herons have greenish legs. These birds also have thinner bills than their lookalikes. The yellowish part in their eyes is a little.
03. Wood Stork
Wood storks are one of the largest American wading birds readily available in subtropical and tropical regions in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. These birds are usually found in ponds, lakes, wetlands, swamps (in trees and shrubs for nest building).
- Wood storks are white overall with dark flight feathers.
- They have long, heavy bills curved downward at the tip.
- They have bald and scaly heads and necks.
- They have an enormous wingspan of 60 to 65 inches.
- Their eyes are rounded black, and their legs are long and blackish.
Wood storks have white plumage like great egrets. These birds also have S-curved necks and relatively small heads, almost the same as great egrets have. In addition, wood storks have long legs and small rounded eyes, which are pretty similar to those of great egrets.
The most noticeable difference between wood storks and great egrets is the bald and scaly heads and necks of the wood storks. Also, wood storks have distinctive dark flight feathers. While great egrets have straight bills, wood storks have curved bills slightly downward.
04. Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate spoonbills are distributed in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Canada, and the southern United States. These birds are usually found in forested swamps, mangroves, wetlands, ditches, ponds, lakes, and marine coasts.
- Roseate spoonbills appear rosy pink in their breeding season.
- They have white plumage on the neck.
- They have a long wingspan of around 50 inches.
- Their bills are long and spoon-shaped.
- The eyes are rounded, and the necks are S-curved.
First of all, both roseate spoonbills and great egrets are wading birds. In terms of body structures, roseate spoonbills look like great egrets. Besides, these birds have S-curved necks, relatively small heads, and long legs, almost the same as great egrets have.
As the name suggests, the bills of roseate spoonbills are spoon-shaped. On the other hand, great egrets have long, straight, pointed bills. While great egrets are all white, roseate spoonbills are rosy pink in most of their plumage.
05. American White Ibis
American white ibises are one of the common wading bird species readily available in the tropical regions of the United States, Canada, and the coasts of Mexico. These birds prefer mangroves, flooded pastures, mudflats, coastal estuaries, particularly in winter.
- American white ibises have all-white plumage with distinctive black wingtips.
- They have long, reddish-pink legs and feet with multiple toes.
- They have small, pale blue, rounded eyes with a red patch around them.
- They have a long wingspan of 35 to 41 inches.
- Their bills are long and curved slightly downward.
American white ibises have all-white plumage, just like great egrets. There are a few more similarities between these species, including S-curved necks, long bills, relatively small heads, small rounded eyes, and long legs with multiple toes.
American white ibises differ from great egrets in terms of bills. While the bills of great egrets are straight and pointed, American white ibises have slightly downward curved bills. Besides, great egrets have entirely black legs, but the legs of American white ibises are reddish.
06. Whooping Crane
Whooping cranes, one of the tallest wading species in the world, are mostly out there in many states of the United States, particularly Florida, Louisiana, and Wisconsin. These birds are also readily available in some Canadian provinces, like British Columbia. They usually prefer crop fields, coastal marshes, grassy wetlands, and estuaries (in winter).
- Whooping cranes are all white with black wingtips.
- They have relatively long, S-shaped necks.
- They have red patches on their heads and faces.
- They have a long wingspan of around 90 inches.
- The bills are long, straight, and slightly ashy-black.
Whooping cranes have entirely white plumage, just like great egrets. These birds also have S-curved necks, straight bills, small rounded eyes, and long legs, almost the same as great egrets have. When in flight, the black wingtips of both species are only visible.
The most noticeable difference between these two wading birds is whooping cranes have red patches on their heads and faces, but great egrets don’t have anything like that. While great egrets have yellow bills and dark black legs, whooping cranes have pale black bills and legs.
07. White Stork
White storks are non-American wading birds readily available in the Iberian Peninsula, Northern Africa, Central Europe, and Eastern Asia. These birds are commonly found in open and semi-open areas, like freshwater wetlands, flooded pastures, river plains, and meadows.
- White storks have mostly white plumage with some black feathers behind.
- They have long pale red bills and legs.
- They have a long wingspan of 70 inches on average.
- Their eyes are small rounded and dull-brown.
- Adult white storks have some shaggy feathers under the throat.
Aside from being in wading species, white storks look similar to great egrets from afar due to their white plumage. These birds can also be considered the same as great egrets in terms of S-curved necks, straight bills, long legs, relatively small heads, and small rounded eyes.
White storks are slightly larger than great egrets. When it comes to appearance, these birds have distinctive black plumage in the wings, but great egrets don’t have any black plumage. While great egrets come up with yellow bills, the bills of white storks are pale red.
08. American White Pelican
American white pelicans are large waterbirds typically found in North America, Central America, and South America (particularly in winter). These birds prefer shallow wetlands, bays, estuaries, a little distance inland, coastal waters, lakes, ponds, and rivers.
- American white pelicans have snowy white plumage with black flight feathers.
- They have long, S-curved necks, short tails, and broad wings.
- They have massive, yellow-orange bills.
- Adults have a yellow plate on the upper bill.
- Their legs are short and yellow-orange.
First of all, both American white pelicans and great egrets are wading birds foraging fish in waters. These birds look similar to great egrets in white plumage. Like great egrets, American white pelicans also have relatively small heads, S-curved necks, and straight bills.
The most noticeable difference between these two species is that American white pelicans have strange-looking, massive bills. Some other differences are these birds also have black flight feathers, shorter legs, and webbed feet.
09. Snowy Egret
Snowy egrets are mostly found in wetlands, beaches, mudflats, along the coast, wet agricultural fields, and along the edges of lakes and rivers. These birds are migratory in most of the United States, including California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
- Snowy egrets have entirely white plumage with a yellow patch in front of the eyes.
- They have long, black, dagger-like bills.
- They have long, S-curved necks and thin legs.
- Their yellow feet are distinctive.
- Breeding adults grow wispy feathers on their heads, necks, and backs.
Snowy egrets come up with all-white plumage, just like great egrets. These birds are also similar to great egrets in terms of body structures, long black legs, S-curved necks, small rounded eyes, and relatively small heads.
Snowy egrets have black bills and yellow feet, while great egrets feature yellow bills and black feet. Also, snowy egrets have a distinctive yellow patch in front of their eyes. The adults develop wispy feathers on the necks, heads, and backs in breeding seasons.
10. Cattle Egret
Cattle egrets are mostly found in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and some South American countries, like Brazil and Chile. These birds prefer upland areas, including agricultural fields, pastures, beaches, wetlands, mudflats, and along the coasts of rivers and lakes.
- Cattle egrets have entirely white plumage.
- They have short, dagger-like, yellow bills and slightly longer legs.
- They have short, thick, S-curved necks and rounded yellow eyes.
- They have a wingspan of around 35 to 40 inches.
- Breeding adults grow golden feathers on the breasts, heads, and backs.
Like great egrets, cattle egrets are entirely white. On top of that, they belong to the same family, Ardeidae. Most importantly, cattle egrets have straight, pointed, yellow bills, just like great egrets. Some other similarities are S-curved necks, long legs, and relatively small heads.
Cattle egrets are noticeably smaller than great egrets. The most distinctive feature is these birds can develop golden feathers on their breasts, heads, and backs. Their legs are not as dark black as those of great egrets.
Now that you know the birds that look like egrets, you won’t feel any hassle in identifying great egrets and their lookalikes. In appearance, great white herons, juvenile blue herons, snowy egrets, and cattle egrets look quite similar to great egrets.
However, other look-alike species, like wood storks, roseate spoonbills, American white ibises, whooping cranes, white storks, and American white pelicans, come with distinctive features. Consequently, you can easily tell them apart.