“Little Egret” has almost a literal Sinhala translation: “Kuda Alikoka”. Another Sinhalese name of this typical water bird is “Punchi Sudukoka”. The Tamil name is “Vellai-Kokku”. The scientific name is “Egretta garzetta”.
The Little Egret is named “Seidenreiher” in German language after the fine silky shimmering plumes of his glory dress in the mating season. By 1900, the Little Egret was threatened and came close to extinction in many regions, since these feathers were highly sought after, particularly for adorning hats.
Little Egrets are Old-world birds with a very large distribution area, from western Europe and Africa to the Far East. They have even begun to colonize some New World coasts during recent decades. Two destinct subspecies occur on the Indonesian islands and in Australia respectivly, the Australian supspecies (Egretta garzetta immaculata) is threatened. Little Egrets also breed at Lake Balaton and, due to climate change, increasingly in Central Europe, however they are not as often seen in Europe as the larger Great Egret (Egretta alba), whose even larger distribution area encompasses Central and South America, too. European Little Egrets are migratory birds. But in tropical regions, such as Sri Lanka, Little Egrets are usually resident birds.
In Sri Lanka, the Little Egret is a typical lowland bird, in the dry zone even more widespread than in the south-western monsoon wet zone area. It also can be seen quite often on flooded paddy fields. It is a rare visitor of the hill country, too. Its preferred habitat are swamps with with some bushes and trees. The Little Egret avoids as open areas such as beaches and wide lagoons, but occurs in both freshwater and brackish water ponds and marshlands. Small fish is the favorite food, but it also feeds on insects and small reptiles and amphibians.
The body length of Little Egrets is about 60 cm with a 90 to 100 cm wingspan. The sexes are alike. The Little Egret is a sociable bird, breeding in colonies, which can consist of hundreds or even thousands of birds, sometimes in mixed colonies with other heron species. The nests are built in trees or in reeds, in soma cases even on rocks. The breeding season is the December to April. Little egrets are mostly silent but make calls at their breeding colonies and they produce an alarm call when disturbed.
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