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White Egrets in the Laguna de Santa Rosa


White Egrets in the Laguna de Santa Rosa

By Lisa Hug

Walking through the Laguna de Santa Rosa is a delightful experience. One cannot help but see and hear wildlife. One often sees large white birds feeding in the fields and marshes of the Laguna. These are egrets. Did you know that there are three different kinds of egrets in this area?

There is the very large Great Egret – immense and stately. It is a very patient hunter. It stalks its prey. It takes some patience to watch a Great Egret hunt. It will stand very quietly, with its long, sleek neck stretched out. It will then wriggle the rear end of its body, while keeping its head and neck perfectly still (much like a house cat). When it has just the correct bearing on its prey, it makes a quick stab into the water or ground. The egret invariable comes up with a small fish, snake, or rodent for a tasty snack. It will do this for most of the day.

The medium-sized egret is the Snowy Egret. It has black legs with contrasting yellow feet. It is more active than the Great Egret. Sometimes it proudly prances around the wetlands, reminding one of a galloping horse. It uses of its bright yellow feet as lures for fish. The Snowy Egret does not stand quietly in the marsh, but spastically shakes its legs – first one then the other. It vibrates its yellow feet. Tiny, curious fish will investigate the feet, and that is when the egret makes its quick move with its long, black bill. It is a marvel to watch.

The smallest of the egrets is the Cattle Egret. This egret is not found everywhere in the county, but concentrates in the lowlands of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. It lives on every continent in the world (except Antarctica), but is patchily distributed in the Bay Area. Cattle Egrets strongly favor the food-rich marshy lowlands of the Laguna. 

Cattle Egrets earned their name by following grazing animals such as water buffalo, cattle and sheep. The egrets often stand on top of their mammalian hosts. These grazing animals welcome the egrets because they will often pick off the, itchy mites, ticks, and insects that will shelter in the animals’ hides. 

These three species of egrets join Black-crowned Night-Herons and together make a large, colony of nesting birds on West Ninth Street between Stony Point Road and Simpson Street in Santa Rosa. The advantages of nesting in a colony may be to provide more protection from predators and also to share information about food sources.

For information on how to visit this colony please click here.

For more information on the birds of Laguna des Santa Rosa, visit the Laguna Foundation at For information on a bird walk series this spring, go to