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Medium Egret - BirdForum Opus

Breeding Pair
Photo by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, India, July-2015

Alternative Name(s): Intermediate Egret

Ardea intermedia

Mesophoyx intermedia
Egretta intermedia


Photo by rony_roshtov
Yotveta, Israel, November 2004

56–72 cm (22-28 in). Medium-sized white egret.

  • all white
  • bill relatively short (medium), robust
  • gape does not extend beyond eye
  • neck generally without pronounced kink (or reduced compared with Great Egret)
  • head rounded


  • bill yellow (often with black tip)
  • legs black below 'knee': yellow, grey or reddish above
  • Possibly wisps of fine breast plumes


  • Long filmy, erectile plumes on back and breast
  • Black bill with yellowish lores
  • Pea-green facial skin
  • Tibia black

Similar Species

Most similar to Great Egret, especially in parts of south-east asia (Great Egret subspecies modesta). Medium differs as follows:

  • smaller, daintier, more graceful with extended head and neck about equal to body length
  • line of gape extends to just below eye (Great Egret's extends well past it)
  • head is rounder
  • bill shorter and deeper (around 1-1.5x head length cf 2x for Great). The shorter bill also gives Intermediate's head a more triangular look than the attenuated snake-like head of Great Egret
  • Medium may have a black bill tip which is present year round and usually absent from Great [4]
  • feathered chin of Medium extends farther forward along the lower mandible
  • adult Medium usually has longer plumes on the breast
  • Medium tends to be in more vegetated, marshy sites
  • (Medium frequently has a less pronounced neck kink than Great. However, this character is not failsafe: an egret without a link is likely Medium but one with one may not be Great)

Breeding Medium with its black bill may be confused with Little Egret. The latter is distinguished as follows:

  • Little Egret has a slim, dagger-like bill. Mediums is comparatively thicker
  • Little Egret has a proportionately longer neck and is slimmer bodied
  • Foot colour is yellow in garzetta Little Egret, legs black (but all-black legs and feet in nigripes)
  • facial skin is bluish in garzetta Little Egret. It's yellow in the nigripes subspecies but tends to be a stronger chrome yellow shade

You can confuse yellow-billed non-breeding intermedia with non-breeding Eastern Cattle Egret. The latter:

  • is significantly smaller (where this is possible to judge). The largest Cattle Egrets are around 85% of the smallest Mediums
  • is more squat with a proportionately shorter neck
  • has facial skin the same colour as its bill (usually a different, paler yellow in Medium)
  • has throat and chin feathering which extends further along the lower mandible than in Medium
  • is more round-headed in appearance with a "deeper" head
  • shows less tibia above the "knee" than Medium
  • lacks the more extensive diaphanous plumes hanging from Medium's scapulars and breast (may be difficult to see)


Photo by bgopal
Bangalore, India, November 2005
Click on image for larger version

Japan to southern India and Greater Sundas east to southern China, southern Korea and south to the Philippines. western Borneo, Sumatra and Java. Northern Asian birds are migratory and vagrants have been recorded north to Sakhalin. On May 31st, 2006 a dead Intermediate Egret was found on Buldir Island in Alaska's Aleutian Island chain. It constituted the first record for North America.


Formerly considered a race of "Intermediate Egret," A. intermedia but now elevated to a full species. Formerly placed in Egretta or in Mesophoyx, however, most authorities now agree on Ardea.


This is a monotypic species. [1]


Freshwaters, including slow-flowing rivers, lakes and swamps, also coastal mudflats and mangroves, sometimes grassland.



Breeds in colonies, often with other species of herons/egrets.


Their diet consists of smaller fish, eels, frogs, snakes and insects.


  1. Clements, J. F., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved July 2015)
  3. BF Member observations
  4. Eaton, JA, B van Balen, NW Brickle, FE Rheindt 2021. Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago (Greater Sundas and Wallacea), Second Edition. Lynx Editions. ISBN978-84-16728-44-2

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