Range & Status
Old World; in Europe chiefly a Mediterranean species but has spread north to colonise Brittany in 1980. In Britain and Ireland, until 1989 a rare but annual visitor; the first of a growing series of influxes appeared in late summer 1989.
Until 1989 regarded as a rare visitor to Cornwall and the UK in general, but following a series of influxes, coupled with small breeding numbers building up on some Cornish estuaries, Little Egrets have become one of our most familiar water birds. Its success has been attributed to global warming. Whatever the reasons, it seems here to stay and is hardly now a Red Data species. An avenue of research that needs investigating is the effect, if any, on its relationship with Grey Herons, which seem to have declined as the egrets have increased. Isles of Scilly: now annual in small numbers. Bred in 2006 and possibly in 2007.
Habitat & Ecology
Favours small tidal creeks, roosting on saltings and trees at high tides. Typically seen singly but flies to communal night roosts; at one Lynher roost Evergreen Oak Quercus ilex is favoured in winter. The presence of summering birds close to heronries indicates a potential for colonisation (Reay, 1994).
The only obvious threat would be prolonged periods of severe winter weather, but dependency on tidal waters permits ice-free feeding even in cold winters.
Monitoring of numbers. Most sites are SSSI. The Tamar complex has been promoted for SPA status; part of it is a Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).