Great Egret
(Ardea alba)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The relatively small population of Great Egrets in Canada breed colonially in several central Canadian provinces, often nesting in mixed-species colonies on freshwater islands. Colony counts in the Great Lakes have greatly increased since the 1970s, and the discovery of new colonies in southern Canada may reflect an ongoing northward expansion of the breeding range (Peck 2007a, McCrimmon et al. 2011). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500 - 1,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early April and mid-April and ends in late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Following its near elimination due to hunting at the turn of the 20th century, legal protection of the Great Egret allowed its recovery and ongoing expansion (McCrimmon et al. 2011). Weather events, contaminants, and heavy metals may all impact regional populations in the United States, and foraging habitat may be limited by ongoing loss and degradation of wetlands, but threats specific to Canadian breeders have not been identified (McCrimmon et al. 2011). At some colonies, Great Egrets compete for nesting space with, and are sometimes displaced by, Double-crested Cormorants (D. Moore and C. Weseloh, ECCC, unpubl. data).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation