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Egrets are no longer classed as rare as they flock into Britain

Who says there’s no egrets? Beautiful wetland birds no longer classed as rare as they flock into Britain

  • So many have been spotted across Britain they will no longer be classed as rarity
  • BirdGuides recorded 8,300 reports of great white egrets in 2020
  • Of these, about 2,300 were first time they had been seen in a particular location 

Egrets We had a few last year – but not too few to mention. 

Birdwatchers say so many great white egrets have been spotted across Britain that the bird will no longer be classed as a rarity. 

BirdGuides, a website and magazine which monitors rare breeds, recorded 8,300 reports of great white egrets in 2020. 

Of these, about 2,300 were the first time the heron-sized birds had been seen in a particular location. 

Egrets We had a few last year – but not too few to mention. Birdwatchers say so many great white egrets have been spotted across Britain that the bird will no longer be classed as a rarity

It represents a remarkable turnaround for a species once considered such a rare and exotic visitor that fewer than 200 pairs were recorded across the whole of Europe in 1970. 

The bird was regularly spotted last year in almost every part of England and Wales, except the northernmost counties of Durham, Northumberland, Yorkshire and Cumbria. 

The egret is not hard to spot thanks to its bright white body and yellow beak and feet. 

They are mainly found in wetlands and anywhere with enough water to feed on fish, frogs and insects. 

In deciding to stop classifying the great white egret as rare, BirdGuides said: ‘It is the sheer volume of reports, as well as a high volume of repeat reports from sites where the species has become a semi-permanent resident, that have led us to this decision.’ 

The guide added it expected ‘the species will continue to become even more commonplace over the coming months and years’. 

Another increasingly frequent visitor is the western cattle egret, which was reported 4,000 times in 2020, including 870 new locations. 

This compares to just 1,339 reports throughout 2016. 

Flocks of the smaller member of the egret family were seen in particular around southern and central England and, for the first time, in Norfolk and Suffolk. 

A lone bird was also seen in north-west Scotland. For 2021, the western cattle egret will be classed as a ‘local rarity’ for parts of England and Wales and a national rarity for the whole of Scotland and Ireland. 

Recorded sightings of all manner of creatures, from tuna to vultures, were up last year as more people flocked to the countryside and coasts to escape lockdown. 

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