Little Egret – 2003-07

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACHOccasional visitor

Little Egrets were considered to be rare vagrants to Britain and Ireland until 1989 when the first of many influxes of birds into southern England occurred.  Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in numbers of Little Egrets in southern Britain, thought to be linked to the breeding success at French colonies.  The species is now very firmly established as a winter visitor to Pembrokeshire, with up to 70-80 Little Egrets over-wintering on the estuaries and open coast.

They utilise coastal lagoons, saltmarsh, brackish marsh and rocky shores as well as estuarine mud flats.  They roost communally, often sharing tree roosts with Grey Herons.  Since the mid 1990s, Little Egrets have been present in small numbers in the Milford Haven Waterway & Daugleddau Estuary during the spring and summer months (Hodges 1992-2007), and during the 2003-07 tetrad survey, breeding was finally confirmed.

Without doubt, the recent series of mild, virtually frost- and snow-free winters has been a major factor in the steady increase in the wintering population in the county, with some birds choosing to remain in Pembrokeshire to breed.  Clearly, there is suitable nesting and foraging habitat in the estuaries to support a breeding population of Little Egrets.  They are, however, extremely vulnerable to prolonged spells of cold winter weather, and their future as a breeding species in the county is inextricably linked to the severity of winters. Little Egrets are likely to gain “climate space” as a result of predicted climate change, and hence it seems likely that they will continue to become established as a breeding species in Pembrokeshire.

Jane Hodges

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire