Tripper Paul and I spent some time with the bird in question mid day today.
There's been a lot of off-line chatter as well as inquisitive texts from
further afield regarding the identification of this bird and some wondering
aloud of the lack of information being posted.
Isaac Grant posted a few photos on the New York Birders Facebook page which
show the most detail to date. Scroll down till you see his post. A big
thank you to the Staten Island birders who discovered and have been keeping
tabs on this bird.
To distill it down, this is a very interesting bird that shows
characteristics of both Little Egret and Snowy Egret. It's a non-textbook
bird in an age class/species group that is difficult to distinguish on a
good day. I made an audio recording of our field impression while the bird
was in view and have transcribed it, as well as additional thoughts noted
after the recording was made, but before consulting any reference material
SNEG's =Snowy Egrets. LIEG= Little Egret
July 9th, 2017
Goethal’s Bridge Pond
“So Tripper and I are at Goethal’s Bridge Pond on the flats following up on
the LIEG report. The bird has been in view for most of the time we’ve been
here, but probably at 100-150 yards. Mixed sun and clouds.
The bird is obviously more substantial in body heft probably by 20% of the
nearby SNEG’s. When they are standing in close proximity it is obvious the
bird has longer legs, just a more robust body, a longer neck.
A couple of times an adult or a juvenile Snowy Egret has tussled with it
and when it rears up it always has a size advantage.
Head shape is kind of difficult to ascertain. I don’t see much difference
in slope of the forehead between this bird and the SNEG’s, but certainly
gray lores. I tried to discern between gray and blue and they definitely
The legs are thicker than those of the nearby SNEG’s. They are a dull
yellow-green and the feet are a dull yellow, a little bit brighter than the
legs, but again that is tough to ascertain if that is just because they are
wet from walking through shallow water or if in fact they are brighter, but
certainly no black in legs that I’m seeing,
The bill is long and straight. It feels longer, but I’m not sure if that is
because of the lores being darker and it just kind of feeling like an
extention of the bill? It does not seem really particularly hefty at the
base, but it does kind of have an overall feel of being slightly longer
than the SNEG’s that are near it.
No plumes obviously and nothing in that regard to give any helpful hints.
A few times SNEG’s have been feeding around it-they are doing a very
frenetic feeding style and a lot of foot wiggling under the water and mud.
This bird is just doing a kind of slow stalk for what it’s worth.”
Additional notes added after the above recording was made when the bird
repositioned in the open.
The leg and foot color noted above was confirmed as the bird walked out in
the open and it’s legs and feet were dry and showed the same contrast in
color noted above.
In two brief flights as well as the third and final flight when it
disappeared over the train tracks there were no dark markings on the body,
wings or tail.
The bird felt very broad-winged compared to the nearby SNEG’s (meaning from
leading edge to trailing edge of wings it seemed thicker than the SNEG’s in
The bill, especially the lower mandible showed some pale color. In
different lighting conditions this changed in appearance, from appearing to
have a dark top to the bill, dark tip with lighter color on the lower
mandible at the base to in bright sun appearing bicolored from back to
During one tussle with a SNEG both birds raised their head feathers. The
SNEG’s head appeared very rounded and delicate while the mystery egret’s
head appeared very squared off in the back and to my eye really gave it a
fierce feel, more in line with LIEG.
The mystery egret always appeared to have a thicker, more muscular looking
neck than SNEG’s.
It’s worth mentioning that no SNEG’s showed any aggressive behavior towards
each other, but 3 different SNEG’s went after the mystery egret at various
points during the hour or so we were there.
The feathering on the chin of the mystery egret extends further out onto
the lower mandible than the SNEG’s it was near.
If the mystery egret was in view it was always easy to pick out as always
looked bigger and longer billed. As others have noted, it really stood out.
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