Mention egrets and most Americans will think of the white wading birds that are so common across our Southeastern States. Experienced birders know that these great, snowy and cattle egrets also migrate to northern regions of our country during the warmer months, following the shorelines or major inland rivers.
But one egret is neither white nor inclined to leave the Gulf Coast. The reddish egret (which actually does include a white race) is far less common than its cousins and is confined to Florida, the Gulf Coast and southern California. The plumage of its head and neck is a dark salmon color while its body and legs are bluish gray; in contrast to other egrets, it has a pink bill, tipped with black, and sports a shaggy crest of plumes atop its head.
Best found on tidal flats of coastal bays, reddish egrets are often first noticed due to their active feeding style, dancing about to snare small fish and invertebrates while holding their wings in an uplifted position. For some reason, I have seen more reddish egrets on this trip to Longboat Key than on past visits; pure luck, I would guess.