Intermediate Egret, Mesophoyx intermedia

The Intermediate Egret, Medium Egret, Smaller Egret, or Yellow-billed Egret (mesophoyx intermedia), is a medium sized heron. Some taxonomists put this species in the genus Egretta or Ardea. It’s a resident breeder from east Africa across the Indian Subcontinent to Southeast Asia and Australia.

As the scientific name implies, this species is intermediate in size between the Great Egret and smaller white egrets, such as the Little Egret and Cattle Egret, though closer to Little than Great. Being 22 to 28 inches in length, 14 ounces, and having a 41 to 45 inch wingspan, this bird has all white feathers and has generally dark legs and a thickish yellow bill. The breeding birds might have a reddish or black bill, greenish yellow gape skin, loose filamentous trails on their breast and back, and dull yellow or pink on their upper legs with variations according to their region. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

The differences in the Intermediate Egret and the Great egret are as follows: the non-breeding colors are similar, but the Intermediate is smaller, with the neck length a little less than body length, a slight domed head, and a shorter, thicker bill. The Great Egret has a noticeable kink near the middle of its neck and the top of its longer bill is nearly aligned with the flat top of its head. Looking close-up, the bare skin of the Great Egret’s gape line extends in a dagger shape behind its eye, while the Intermediate’s usually stalks upright with neck stretched forward. The Great is more patient, often adopting a sideways leaning “one-eyed” stance.

The differences between the Little Egret and the Intermediate Egret are as follows: the Little Egrets have yellow-soled feet and bills that are black. Often, they run after fish in shallow waters. The breeding birds have long nuptial curls on the back of their heads.

The Intermediate Egret stalks its prey carefully in shallow coastal or fresh water, even including flooded fields. It eats fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects. They often nest in colonies with other herons, normally on platforms of sticks, trees, or shrubs. They lay two to five eggs, with the clutch varying on the region.

Image Caption: Bird, Intermediate Egret, Ardea intermedia. Credit: Brett Donald/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)