Great Egret

Great Egrets (Ardea alba) are found in freshwater and saltwater wetlands throughout much of the World. Here in Tucson, these large birds are quite uncommon, and the first one I've seen here was wading in a golf course pond at Tucson Country Club around sunset on Christmas Eve. Its eye glowed in the camera's flash as it stalked slowly in the dark water hunting for fish.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

My dad and I returned to Tucson Country Club on Christmas Day hoping to get some daylight photos of the Great Egret, but it wasn't there.

Great Egrets are 39 inches (1 m) tall with a 59 inch (1.5 m) wingspan. They can be distinguished from other large, white herons and egrets by their yellow bills and black legs and feet.

Great Egrets are opportunistic predators and will capture fish, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, crayfish, crabs, insects, and even small birds. Great Egrets are aggressive and will also steal food from other, smaller herons. Their nestlings are also quite aggressive and will frequently kill their smaller siblings.

Great Egrets are daylight hunters and will return to their communal roosts around sunset to sleep for the night. Not long after this photo was taken, the Great Egret flew off toward its roost somewhere to the west of Tucson Country Club.