Eastern Reef Egret

Did you know?

The two colour forms of the Eastern Reef Egret interbreed, and both white and dark offspring can be found in the same brood.

A loud croak.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
September to January, but can breed year round.
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3 eggs
28 days
Nestling Period: 
40 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

There are two colour forms of the Eastern Reef Egret. The white form has a white body and wings, a yellow and grey bill, a bare face that is green-yellow, and dull yellow-grey legs. The dark form has a slate-grey body and wings, with a small white streak on the throat, the bill is slate-brown, and the legs are grey. The eyes of both forms are yellow. The Eatern Reef Egret is also called the Eastern Reef Heron, and the dark form the Blue Heron or Blue Reef Heron.

Similar species: 

The White-faced HeronE. novaehollandiae, is also grey, like the dark form of the Eastern Reef Egret, but is a lighter tone of grey, has a white face, a more extensive white throat, and clearer yellow legs. All other egrets are similar to the white form in body colour, but have more slender bodies, finer bills and longer legs.

Where does it live?

The Eastern Reef Egret is found on the coast and islands of most of Australia, but is more common on the Queensland coast and Great Barrier Reef than elsewhere. It is now rare on Victorian and Tasmanian coasts. The dark form predominates in temperate areas, the white form in the tropics.


The Eastern Reef Egret lives on beaches, rocky shores, tidal rivers and inlets, mangroves, and exposed coral reefs.

Seasonal movements: 

Eastern Reef Egrets are largely sedentary.

What does it do?

Eastern Reef Egrets hunt by both day and night for small fish, crustaceans and insects. They also invade colonies of nesting terns and steal fish brought in to feed to the young. It is often recognised by its feeding behaviour: it feeds in clear water and hunts its prey by stealth, by crouching low as it moves through shallow water or over rocks and coral.


The Eastern Reef Egret breeds throughout the year. The nests can be in trees in island woodlands, or on the ground under shrubs or rock ledges. The stick nest platform is lined with seaweed. Nesting occurs in single pairs or in small colonies. Both sexes incubate the eggs and the young remain in the nest for up to 6 weeks.

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