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Yellow-billed Egret - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 01:29, 15 April 2024 by Njlarsen (talk | contribs) (similar species)
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Photo © Joseph Morlan
Bwabwata National Park, Okavango, Namibia 31 July 2023.

Alternative Name(s): Median Egret

Ardea brachyrhyncha

Mesophoyx brachyrhyncha
Egretta brachyrhyncha


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


  • Long filmy, erectile plumes on back and breast
  • Red-orange bill
  • Lime-green facial skin
  • Tibia reddish
  • Tarsi black

Similar Species

Most similar to Great Egret, Yellow-billed Egret 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
  • feathered chin of Yellow-billed extends farther forward along the lower mandible
  • adult Yellow-billed usually has longer plumes on the breast
  • Yellow-billed tends to be in more vegetated, marshy sites
  • (Yellow-billed frequently has a less pronounced neck kink than Great. However, this character is not failsafe: an egret without a link is likely Yellow-billed but one with one may not be Great)

You can confuse Yellow-billed non-breeding with non-breeding Western Cattle Egret. The latter:

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


Found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Sudan and south to South Africa but absent from the most arid and densely forested areas. Non-migratory but dispersive.

Recorded as a scarce spring and summer visitor to the Banc D'Arguin in Mauritania, and a vagrant to the Cape Verde Islands, Egypt and at the Dead Sea in Jordan.

In May 2001 the first Yellow-billed Egret for Europe was recorded in a small wetland close to Rome, Italy, and remained there until August. In Asia vagrants have been recorded north to Sakhalin.


Formerly considered a race of Intermediate Egret A. intermedia but now recognized as 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/

}#Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved July 2015)

  1. BF Member observations

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.