Intermediate Egret

Ardea intermedia

Intermediate Egret. Photo: John Spiers

Intermediate Egrets are uncommon in South Australia, with greater populations to the north and east of the state. As their name suggests they lie in size between Great and Little Egrets. Their beaks are orange-yellow distinguishing them form Little Egrets, while their neck is about the length of the body distinguishing them from the Great Egret where the neck is a bout one and a half times the body length. They could also be confused with non-breeding Cattle Egrets. These are smaller with a shorter, thicker neck and frequently a hunched-appearance.

Intermediate Egrets feed on fish and other aquatic vertebrates such as frogs, snakes and lizards. They also take a variety on invertebrates such as crayfish, insects and spiders. They normally feed alone but may also form small feeding flocks, using techniques such as ‘walking slowly’ and ‘standing’. Prey may be detected by foot stirring, hopping etc.

Like other egrets Intermediate’s nest during spring in colonies of mixed species. The nest is a platform of sticks placed in a small tree, and constructed by both parents. Clutches consist of 3-6 pale green eggs.


Intermediate Egrets are medium- sized, all-white egrets with an orange-yellow beak, often with a black tip. In contrast to the Great Egret the gape does not extend behind the eye. The long toes, probably an adaptation to walking on vegetation, are diagnostic but hard to see. The legs are grey-black. During the breeding period, long dense plumes develop on the breast and filmy plumes on the back extending beyond the tail. No plumes develop on the head. Bare parts on the face become blue-green. In non-breeding plumage, there are no plumes and bare skin on the face becomes yellow-green. Sexes are alike. Juveniles are like non-breeding adults.

Where to find it

Intermediate egrets are confined to suitable habits in the east and south of South Australia. They are mainly to be found inland, rather than at the coast. They frequent a wide variety of wetlands including man made wetlands such as rice fields and sewage ponds. They prefer sheltered water where the vegetation is not too dense. The species disperses widely post-breeding but then becomes mainly sedentary.