Western reef-egret -- 黄喉岩鹭 (Egretta gularis)

Western reef-egret wading
Loading more images and videos...

Western reef-egret fact file

Western reef-egret description

GenusEgretta (1)

Western reef-egret is the name given to two former subspecies of the little egret (Egretta garzetta), now treated somewhat contentiously as a single separate species (3) (4) (5) (6). This thin, medium-sized heron occurs in two distinct forms, one of which has mostly dark slaty-grey plumage and a white throat, while the other has predominately white plumage (2) (3) (5). During the breeding season, both forms develop red lores and distinctive plumes on the head, chest and back (3) (5). The legs are dark, while the feet are bright yellow, except during the height of courtship when they turn pinkish red (5).

Also known as
Western reef heron.
Egretta garzetta gularis.
Length: 65 cm (2)

Western reef-egret biology

With a diet chiefly comprised of fish, crustaceans and molluscs, the western reef-egret forages mainly over shallow water and mud (2) (3) (4). Most foraging activity occurs during the day, with non-breeding adults generally foraging alone or occasionally in small groups (4) (5). At night, however, this species sometimes roosts in large numbers (up to 1,000 individuals), in mangroves and on rocky cliffs and islets (4).

Breeding occurs between April and July and also in October, with some individuals forming solitary pairs, whilst others gather in small colonies of up to 100 pairs. The nest is a platform of twigs and seaweed positioned on the ground, in reedbeds and mangroves, and on ledges or rocks. Although very little is known about the movements of the western reef-egret, some populations appear to disperse widely after breeding and may be partially migratory (4) (5).


Western reef-egret range

Native to coastal West Africa from Mauritania to Gabon, and coastal East Africa, through the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf to India (3). Vagrant individuals have been recorded as far away as Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America (4).


Western reef-egret habitat

The western reef-egret is a coastal species, occurring mainly on rocky or sandy shores and reefs, but is also found around estuaries, mudflats, saltmarshes, mangroves, tidal creeks and lagoons (3) (4).


Western reef-egret status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Western reef-egret threats

In common with other white egrets, the western reef-egret was seriously persecuted in the past for the plume trade, but has since recovered following its protection (4) (5).


Western reef-egret conservation

There are currently no conservation measures specific to this species.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the western reef-egret and other herons, see:

  • Kushlan, J.A. and Hancock, J.A. (2005) Bird Families of the World: Herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


The space between a bird's bill and eyes.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
  2. Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. (2002) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India and the Indian Subcontinent, Including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. BirdLife International (July, 2009)
  5. Kushlan, J.A. and Hancock, J.A. (2005) Bird Families of the World: Herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Christidis, L. and Boles, W.E. (2008) Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.

Image credit

Western reef-egret wading  
Western reef-egret wading

© Manjeet & Yograj Jadeja

Manjeet & Yograj Jadeja


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Western reef-egret (Egretta gularis) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top