Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
Snowy Egrets mainly breed along the coasts, from Oregon and Maine southward, but also in scattered inland sites where suitable wetlands are found. Common in states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, they can also be found in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Their wintering grounds are located along the Atlantic Coast to southern New Jersey, and down into the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Greater Antilles; as well as from the Gulf and Pacific coasts south into Central America.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
Snowy Egrets forage in many types of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and marine. In North America, they generally prefer shallow, sheltered estuarine sites. These feeding areas include salt marsh pools, tidal channels, shallow bays, and mangroves. In the Caribbean, winter migrants nest and roost in mangroves. Snowy Egrets throughout Central America favor lowland areas near freshwater swamps, lakes, and the mouths of large rivers. Birds in South American prefer coastal mangroves, mudflats, and swamps.
The Snowy Egret's varied diet is composed primarily of fish and crustaceans, but also includes snails, snakes, lizards, worms, and both aquatic and terrestrial insects. The bird is an active hunter and employs a greater repertoire of foraging behaviors than any other North American heron. Rather than simply standing still or walking slowly to ambush prey, Snowy Egrets dash through shallow water, quickly changing direction, and using their feet to flush prey from hiding places. Food is also captured through pecking, slow walking, hopping, hovering, dipping, and other "disturb and chase" behaviors.
Breeding takes place in colonies, typically with other egrets and herons. These mixed-species rookeries are often located in isolated, estuarine habitats. Males select nest sites and engage in courtship displays accompanied by loud, raucous calls to attract mates. Common displays include the "stretch," in which the male pumps his body up and down with his bill pointed towards the sky; plume-raising; and circling and tumbling flights. Once pairing takes place, females join in on sexual displays to maintain the pair bond. The female is the primary builder of the nest--a platform of woven twigs and small sticks situated either on the ground or as high as 30 feet up in the trees. The three to six pale green-blue eggs are incubated by both sexes for about 24 days. The chicks usually fledge two weeks after hatching. Young reach reproductive maturity after one to two years.
A partially migratory species, the Snowy Egret relocates from its northernmost breeding habitats in North America to its winter ranges in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, the West Indies, and Bermuda. The birds begin their northward migration in early March, then depart again in September for their wintering areas. Birds in parts of Florida, along the southern coastlines, and in the Pacific lowlands are year-round residents.