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Little Egret vs Snowy Egret: What’s the Difference?

Little Egrets and Snowy Egrets are different species of the heron family. Although they both appear to be small white herons, there are subtle differences between the two birds. This post will help you to identify a little egret vs snowy egret.

Little Egret vs Snowy Egret

Little Egret vs Snowy Egret

Little Egrets and Snowy Egrets look very similar as they are both small white herons with long necks, and thin black bills. The table below shows how the Little Egret and Snowy Egret are related to each other.

Little Egret

Little Egret
Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
Family Herons (Ardeidae) Herons (Ardeidae)
Subfamily Herons & Egrets (Ardeinae) Herons & Egrets (Ardeinae)
Genus Plumed egrets (Egretta) Plumed egrets (Egretta)
Species Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

How to Tell Little Egrets & Snowy Egrets Apart

Little Egrets and Snowy Egrets can be hard to tell apart, but they both have different coloured lores and feet. Snowy Egrets are also slightly larger than Little Egrets, with a longer wingspan.

The Colour of Their Lores

One of the easiest ways to tell a Little Egret and Snowy Egret apart is to look at the colour of their lores.

The lore is the region between the eye and bill on the side of a bird’s head. Snowy Egrets have yellow lores, whereas the lores on Little Egrets are grey (unless they are breeding, when they appear red).

The photograph below shows a Little Egret next to a Snowy Egret. You can see their lores are different colours.

Little Egret vs Snowy Egret - Lore colour

The Colour of Their Feet

Both the Little Egret and Snowy Egret can have yellow coloured feet, but the feet of the Snowy Egret tend to be a brighter yellow. Little Egrets have yellow feet, but the colour is usually paler, and can be a greenish yellow.

In the photograph below you can see the Little Egret’s feet are a slightly different yellow to the feet of the Snowy Egret beneath.

Little Egret vs Snowy Egret - Feet colour

Their Size

Little Egrets tend to be smaller than Snowy Egrets, but the difference is subtle so it would be difficult to tell, even if you put them side by side.

On average a Little Egret has a wingspan of 39 inches, whereas for a Snowy Egret it’s 41 inches. Little Egrets also have an average weight of 310g, whereas Snowy Egrets weigh on average 370g.

The size of a snowy egret compared to a little egret

Summary of the Little Egret vs Snowy Egret

Overall, Little Egrets and Snowy Egrets both have black legs, a long neck, a slender black bill, and white plumage. They are both migratory birds found in coastal areas, or near shallow water where they feed on small fish.

The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking for the Snowy Egret’s bright yellow feet, or bright yellow lore.

The table below provides a basic summary of the differences and similarities between the two birds.

Little Egret Snowy Egret
Body White White
Bill Long and Black Long and Black
Legs Black Black
Eyes Pale yellow Pale yellow
Lores Grey (red when breeding) Yellow
Feet Yellow or greenish-yellow Bright yellow
Length 55–65 cm 56–66 cm
Average Wingspan 39 inches 41 inches
Average Weight 310g 370g
Native to Southern Europe,
Middle East,
Southern Asia
North America,
Central American,
South America

Egrets on the Wandle Trail

If you have seen a small white heron along the Wandle Trail, it is almost certainly a Little Egret rather than a Snowy Egret. Little Egrets are often spotted in Morden Hall Park, Ravensbury Park, or Watermeads Nature Reserve.

Little Egrets are commonly found in Wales and southern England, usually near the coast, or by rivers or wetlands. Snowy Egrets on the other hand are rare in the U.K., and have only ever been spotted in west and south west Scotland.

Little Egrets have now spread as far north as Scotland and have been spotted at Caerlaverock.

Which Other Herons and Egrets are White?

Apart from the Snowy Egret and the Little Egret, there are three other types of heron which appear almost completely white. These are the Great White Egret, the Cattle Egret, and the Pacific Reef Heron. Out of these three, the Great White Egret is the only one to be found in the UK.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great White Egret is also know as the Great Egret, Common Egret, Large Egret, or Great White Heron. Great Egrets are large herons with white plumage. They can stand up to a metre tall.

Apart from their size, a Great Egret can easily be distinguished from other white egrets by their yellow bills, dark legs, and black feet.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba)

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Cattle Egrets are found in the tropics, subtropics, and warm-temperate zones. They are stocky herons with short, thick necks, a sturdy bill.

When they aren’t breeding, Cattle Egret have mainly white plumage, a yellow bill, and greyish-yellow legs.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra)

Pacific Reef Herons are found throughout southern Asia and Oceania. They are also known as Eastern Reef Herons or Eastern Reef Egrets. They appear in two colours, either pure white or slate grey.

The white Pacific Reef Herons can be difficult to tell apart from Little Egrets, as they both have white plumage, dark grey bills, and yellowish feet.

Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra)

FAQs About Little Egrets & Snowy Egrets

Are Snowy Egrets rare?

In the UK Snowy Egrets are rare, and have only ever been spotted in parts of Scotland. In America on the other hand, they are common, and often seen in freshwater and marine habitats.

This was not always the case however. In the 19th century Snowy Egrets were hunted in America for their plumes, which caused their numbers to fall. Today, they are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which has caused their numbers to increase again.

Are Little Egrets rare?

In the UK, the spotting of any type of white heron, prior to 1989 was very rare. The Little Egret first appeared in Dorset in significant numbers in 1989, and started to breed.

Today Little Egrets are relatively common in the UK, and frequently spotted along the coastline of Southern England, and in Wales. They also live in wetlands and near rivers, like the River Wandle.

Video Showing a Little Egret vs a Snowy Egret

This Post was About the Difference Between Little Egrets vs Snowy Egrets

Thank you for reading my article about little egrets vs snowy egrets. If you have spotted a little egret down near the river Wandle, and would like to contribute a photograph to this article, please get in touch by email.

David Element

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

I am afraid that your information about the status of the Cattle Egret in the UK is out of date. See:


Saturday 24th of December 2022

So interesting , thanks for giving such a clear way of identifying both egrets, good to know the difference I live on the Wiltshire Dorset border and will look out for the Little egret on our country walks.