Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club         Southeastern Caribbean Bird Alert         Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee
RESPONSES TO 'Mystery Egret' (Egretta sp.)
The following responses to a query regarding the plausibility of it being a Western Reef-Heron (E. gularis), accompanied by circulated photos, are provided chronologically and anonymously to protect the identities of those who may not have wanted their opinions publicized. If you wish to add your comments to this page, click here. If you wish your name and e-mail address posted, you must explicitly state so.

     Interesting bird! I too saw the Nantucket WRE, as well as at least one on Barbados.
     Something about the bill of this bird puzzles me: it almost appears as if it is deformed. I can't say exactly why, but it really doesn't look right for ANY of the taxa under consideration.
     Let me ask a different sort of question: bill aside, what does the bird look like? Are the legs really thick? The bill color also seem a bit at variance with what I understand white WRE should exhibit: a dingy brownish-yellow.
     Let me try it another way: apart from the bill, what about it would lead you to conclude it was not a Little Egret?
     Also, could you determine how old it was: a juv or an nonbreeding adult? Did it feed differently from the Snowies?
     Not that it necessarily means anything at all, I am unaware of any white WRE from the Western Hemisphere. Do you know of one?
     At least we know it's not an Intermediate Egret, one high on my list of overdue birds from Barbados (did you see the newest BIRDING WORLD?)

     hi, don't know if the udnernoted helps.
     have to say my gut reaction is that the bill is deformed.
     I think it may well be a Little Egret in non breeding plumage
     Extract from Birds of the Western Palearctic Vol 1 Cramp et al 1984
     Western Reef -Heron
     White morph :- wholly white or with cream wash on elongated feathers in adult; white, often with some mouse brown feathers injuveniles.............; Bill of white morph brown in nominate gularis, yellow in adult schistacea, dull brown in younger birds;...........; Legs of white morph dark olive green;.....feet sulphur yellow.........eyes yellow.

     The description most sounds like a young recently fledged Snowy, but it might be a young Little also. The legs of both species can be quite similar at a young age before they have fully darkened, but the yellow up the hind extending without contrast from the tarsus sounds more like a young Snowy.
     Surely the bill shape is more likely to be a deformity? I don't think W. Reef Herons have a bill shape like that.

     I have no idea! I suspect that the photo is not quite good enough for an acceptable ID even if we did know what we were looking for. My immediate responce is that it looks like an abberant bill.

     Yup, that's a strange one alright. When I was living in Barbados I often wondered how one would pick out a white phase Reefer & eventually settled on bill structure as the best clue. Your bird certainly has an odd bill. Too odd I think, certainly not at all like the thick - uncurved - bill of the dark phase Western Reef Heron which wintered in Barbados a couple of years ago. This makes me think that it may be some sort of structural abnormality. Having only seen the one reefer I would gladly defer to others with more experience.

     I have read your field description and had a look at the photos. My initial reaction is that barring the odd curved bill everything else fits immature Snowy Egret, which is what I guess it is. I saw once a fledged Snowy with pinkish/pale patches in their bills and I recall others had noted this feature in Snowies previously. My recollection of white phase WRE is that the bill is horn coloured throughout and both mandibles curve (upper down; lower up) to meet at the tip. The bill's curvature is indeed odd and probably a deformity.
     I would be interested to hear what others think.