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This page is devoted to learning about the variation in Snowy Egret, Egretta thula (SNEG) and pitfalls when considering a possible Little Egret, Egretta garzetta (LIEG) - with a sidebar about juvenile Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea (LBHE).

What started my interest was a challenging bird I found at my local patch: the individual shown in these first series of photos (lets call it Bird X) was found in late August 1997 in Texas, and reported as a possible LIEG largely because of the gray lores:

Aging any egret is the key to identifying it, and the modern literature indicates that the lack of head/back/foreneck plumes, extensive greenish tone on the rear of the legs and the tinge of yellow-green to the basal part of the lores make Bird X a juvenile - the toughest age to identify.
Many people came to see this bird , but there were a couple of juvenile SNEGs with pale yellowish lores that were being mis-identified by some people, and thus I can only be sure of the sightings/photos made in the first two days (all these photos were from this period). Other things noted about Bird X were:
- it always looked slightly bigger and bulkier than any nearby SNEGs.
- its legs did not look any thicker, but appeared longer, always with more exposed leg than SNEGs feeding in the same depth of water.
- the feathering below the bill extended well beyond that above the bill, forming a more noticable "step" than on nearby SNEGs
- it consistently looked "pot-bellied" compared to all the SNEGs, formed by a bulge in the belly between the legs ( a bit like that often seen on "tame" overfed ducks)
- it spent a lot of time hunting with its neck fully extended for long periods (more like a Great Egret) - the SNEGs held this posture rarely, and for only a few seconds.
Some of these points can be seen in the next group of three photos (Bird X on the right):

The following two photos of Bird X reveal that it does have some extended feathers on the crown and foreneck (in the first image it is threatening a nearby egret), so can juvenile SNEGs have such feathers?:

All the images above this point are of Bird X from Fort Worth, Texas.

For comparison, here are two LIEGs from Israel and Bahrain (both in March):

- and here is a juv. LIEG from England, next to an image of the Bird X (right) reduced to match sizes:

- with thanks to BIRDING WORLD magazine and Keith Stone.

Before passing judgement, please take a look at the next page of interesting SNEGs (there are lots of images, so be patient). Bird X was submitted to the TBRC as a Little Egret, and was not accepted. I now feel that the Bird X was likely to have been a juv SNEG, and as such it provides a useful benchmark for anyone trying to identify a juv. egret with gray lores. Just to really muddy the waters, take a look at this bird! - I would appreciate getting informed comment. You can find an excellent article about identifying LIEG and SNEG in BIRDING WORLD 9: pages 434-444.