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      The Nature Report: Reddish Egrets

      Reddish egrets have arrived, swooping in by the hundreds on Green Island.

      There are only some 1,500 nesting pairs in the United States, and Green Island in the Lower Laguna Madre is their most important nesting habitat. Reddish egrets have two distinct color forms, white and dark.

      White morphs were once thought to be a separate species.

      The more common dark morphs for which the species is named, have chestnut to auburn heads and necks with slate gray bodies. It TMs peak nesting season and the egrets are busy gathering nest material, although finding just the right pieces is apparently quite challenging. The reddish egrets are sporting breeding plumage, and their eyes are encircled with a turquoise hue tapering into a pinkish upper bill that is tipped in satiny black.

      The white morph is strikingly beautiful with more of a violet/blue eyeshade. Both have elegantly flowing feathers that were coveted by fashionable ladies for their hats in the late 1880 TMs and early 1900 TMs.

      Plume hunters almost wiped out the species, but they have been slowly recovering since harvesting was banned in 1918. Reddish egrets are listed as threatened in Texas.

      One of the biggest threats to the birds now is loss of habitat and disturbance on their nesting grounds, and that is why Green Island is protected by the Audubon Society and off limits to the public. When a reddish egret is excited or agitated by a rival, it flares its porcupine like neck feathers creating the appearance of a fearsome lion.