Fun Slatty Egret Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Slaty egret facts tell us about their feeding habits.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

Do you want to learn some intriguing facts about the cousins of little egrets, the slaty egrets? Then continue reading this article. The slaty egret (Egretta vinaceigula) is a small dark bird of the Ardeidae family of the order Pelecaniformes. They are mostly found in central South Africa, particularly in the countries of Zambia, northern Botswana, northern Namibia. They avoid the regions in the north of the country. This resident population of birds prefers flood plains, wet marshes, and shallow waters. The species are also spotted in areas after heavy rains when flood and rain-water levels have receded. They avoid open water habitats and seldom disperse to areas outside their geographic range. The low emergent vegetation acts as their cover from predators. Their body, head, neck, and back are covered in gray feathers. They have a red-brown throat, fore neck, and chin. The long black bill, gray and red crest plumes, yellow legs, and blue-gray underwings help to separate them from other bird species. The small yellow feet and black-red abdomen and flanks are also hard to miss. Food habits of this species include small fish, frogs, toads, snails from lily pads, and some aquatic invertebrates. They adopt a special standing flycatching technique for this. Breeding season occurs from March to June where one to four eggs are laid by the females in nests made of stick and reed in bushy vegetation and vines. The pale blue-green eggs hatch after an incubation period of 21-24 days. There are only a few of these birds left on the planet. Human activities like drainage and flood regulation have decreased their population across the world and made the species Vulnerable.  

Read on to find some more fun facts about these dark gray egrets. If you like this article, then surely check out our pages on sea eagle and shrike.

Slaty Egret Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a slaty egret?

The slaty egrets are birds of the Ardeidae family.

What class of animal does a slaty egret belong to?

The slaty egrets belong to the class Aves of the animal kingdom.

How many slaty egrets are there in the world?

The global population of these birds falls somewhere between 2500-3300.

Where does a slaty egret live?

The slaty egrets are found in central South Africa, mainly in countries like Zambia and northern Botswana. These birds have a low global population, but the most number of them have been recorded in these two countries. Over 300 birds have been recorded in northern Namibia, while 500-1000 have been recorded in Zambia and over 2000 in northern Botswana. Although they are not nomadic by nature, these small dark birds have been spotted in Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and rarely in the north of South Africa. These egrets cannot be seen in Texas or anywhere else in the United States, but other egret species like the cattle egret occurs there.

What is a slaty egret's habitat?

The slaty egrets prefer the seasonally fluctuating wetland habitat which is along the river floodplains. They prefer freshwater marshes, floodplains, and temporary shallow wetlands. Their habitat choices include areas where water levels are receding after peak season and also areas of low emergent vegetation. The low water levels help the bird to catch their prey from shallow water and also for breeding purposes. They forage for food in shallow waters which are less than 4 in (10 cm) deep and strictly avoid areas of open water.

Who do slaty egrets live with?

These egrets appear in pairs or small groups while foraging in search of food during the seasonal change.

How long does a slaty egret live?

The average lifespan of an egret is between 10-20 years, depending on the species. Since not much research has been done on the slaty egrets, it would not be wrong to assume that they live as long as most egrets do.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season for these egrets occurs between the months of March and June. It happens in temporary wetlands and river floodplains. Not much information is available on their courtship period. The species build their nest using sticks and reeds in bush thickets and vines. The nests are 12-16 in (30-40) cm wide and 4 in (10 cm) deep with a central depression and are placed 3-16 ft (1-5 m) above the ground.  They lay one to four eggs in the nest during the breeding season. These pale blue-green eggs are laid individually or in colonies of 60 nests. The incubation period lasts between 21-24 days and the nesting success is low among these birds. This could be attributed to their predators, which are known to kill the adults while they are feeding the babies and also the chicks, once they hatch out of the eggs. These young egrets do not migrate until they reach adulthood.  

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN Red List has enlisted these birds under the Vulnerable category.

Slaty Egret Fun Facts

What do slaty egrets look like?

Slaty egrets (Egretta vinaceigula), cousins of little egrets, are small birds with pale blue-gray bodies, head, neck, back, wings, and tail. They have a red-brown throat, chin, and fore neck. The brown throat can buff up over time. These egrets of temporary wetlands or shallow wetlands have a narrow, black bill. The lower bill also has a pale keel. They are also identified by their narrow gray and red-brown crest plumes, which project from the back of their head, back, and lower neck. The plumes which project from their back extend beyond the tail and end in curved tips. Other notable features of these egrets include their black-red abdomen and flanks, pale yellow irises, buff, and pale blue-gray lower wings, and their gray yellow legs and feet. They have small toes that range from pale to bright chrome yellow in color. The immature birds are pale slate gray in color and do not possess the crest plumes. Their upper throat and breast buff varies from pink to brown in color and is also seen extending down to the belly. Also, they have a gray greenish tarsus.

A close up shot of the head of the slaty egret

How cute are they?

Egrets of this species can be considered cute by some people owing to their slate gray color and long crest.

How do they communicate?

The species communicate with their aggressive triple 'karak' call.

How big is a slaty egret?

These egrets are 17-24 in (43-60 cm) in length. They are almost twice smaller than the reddish egrets which range from 27-32 in (69-81 cm) in length.

How fast can a slaty egret fly?

These egrets are mostly resident in their geographical range and seldom disperse out of this range. When they do, they are foraging for food during the seasonal changes. They typically do not fly great distances and are not adept at flying at great speeds.  

How much does a slaty egret weigh?

The slaty egret range from 9-12 oz (250-340 g) in weight.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males are called cocks and females are called hens.

What would you call a baby slaty egret?

Immature birds, which hatch out of eggs, are called chicks.

What do they eat?

The feeding habit of this bird species typically includes small fish. However, in areas where there are no fish, these carnivores eat frogs, tadpoles, and other aquatic invertebrates, and their foraging is mainly restricted to shallow waters. They also adopt a standing flycatching technique to catch snails from lily pads, dragonflies, and other insects.

Are they poisonous?

Slaty egrets are not known to be poisonous. They use their thin and sharp bills to pick prey from the shallow waters of temporary wetlands.

Would they make a good pet?

This bird stays in small groups in the wild. Although some people can try to pet them, they are better off in their natural habitat.

Did you know...

The slaty egrets are known as aigrette vineuse in German.

This bird differs from the black egret mainly in terms of appearance. Unlike black egrets, they have thinner posture and yellow legs, and red throat. The black egret is also known as the black heron.

Are slaty egrets Endangered?

Slaty egrets are not Endangered. However, they have been enlisted as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. This is majorly due to human activities like flood regulation, building dams, and drainage for cultivation. This has impacted their natural habitats bringing in altercations in the river marshes.

What is the difference between a slaty egret and a heron?

Heron is longer than an egret and has a heavier beak. Herons have a cosmopolitan distribution and have lighter legs than most egrets. Egrets differ from herons as they have darker legs, lighter beaks, and their distribution is restricted to river-sides, marshes, and flood plains in parts of South Africa. Also unlike herons, egrets are generally not found in open waters.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these night heron facts and Arctic tern facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Slaty egret coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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