Family: Herons, Bitterns, and Egrets (Ardeidae)
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
State Rarity Rank:
Global Rarity Rank:
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Both male and female Great Egrets take turns incubating their eggs and brooding their young (Wiese 1975 in McCrimmon et al. 2001).
|State Ranking Justification||
The Great Egret is known to occur in ten counties in New York State (New York Breeding Bird Atlas 2000-2005, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). The population peaked in 1975 at 410 breeding pairs, during a period of fluctuation, and then reached a stable population by 1988 (Peterson 1988 cited in Andrle and Carroll 1988). New York's Great Egret population has been growing steadily since the first breeding attempt in 1953. The abundance of breeding birds on Long Island has nearly tripled since 1985 and the breeding popualtion has expanded its range both northward to Lake Champlain and eastward to the Niagara River. The greatest former threat of hunting has been essentially eliminated and productivity losses and mortality from pollution, contamination and habitat loss seem to be low enough to allow for population expansion (McGowan and Corwin 2008). The sizeable, growing population, high number of occurrences and threats that are not impinging on popualtion expansion contributed to the S4 rank for this egret. The rank was calculated using the Element Rank Estimator, version 6.03.
Brown et al. (2001) discovered that there were approximately 28 nesting pairs of Great Egrets on Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge beginning in 1974. The number of nesting pairs on Long Island was found to decline slightly during the 1970s, as was true for most wading birds, and increase during the 1990s (Brown et al. 2001). The first Breeding Bird Atlas in New York (1980-1985) reported Great Egrets in 21 probable or confirmed breeding blocks (Andrle and Carroll 1988). The second Atlas (2000-2005) reported them in 39 breeding blocks (New York State Breeding Bird Atlas 2000-2005). The species is also found in the Lake Erie and Lake Champlain Basins (McCrimmon 2006, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007) and the statewide population of Great Egrets in recent years appears to be stable (Peterson cited in Andrle and Carroll 1988) with an increase in recent years (New York State Breeding Bird Atlas 2000-2005).
Beginning in the late 1800s, the Great Egret was only an occasional summer visitor in New York. During this time frame and the early 1900s, Great Egrets were nearly extirpated in the state due to overhunting for their plumes, which were in high demand for hats. Since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act's protection, the birds became regular visitors and began to establish breeding populations by the early 1960s in Suffolk County. In 1975, the population reached its peak, and after a period of fluctuation in the 1970s and 1980s, the species maintains a stable population in New York (Peterson 1988 cited in Andrle and Carroll 1988).