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Great Egrets Use Their Bill as a Spear

Great egret photo featuring words: I Hunt with My Bill

Whether fishing or fighting, the great egret’s razor-sharp bill is an amazing tool:

  • Stalking & spearing: Standing motionless or slowly wading in shallow water, great egrets wait for prey (mainly small fish and amphibians) to swim by. With a swift stab of the bill, they pierce or snap up the oblivious prey—then swallow them whole.
  • Sibling rivalry: Dominant chicks have been known to use their bills to attack weaker siblings in the nest, sometimes resulting in death.
  • Nest defense: Great egrets most often nest in isolated tree-top colonies with other water birds. If a predator manages to make it to a nest, they’ll be met with sharp thrusting bills.
diagram of egret hunting

Support for Bird the Preserves was generously provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through Chicago Wilderness. Top photo by Paul Dacko.