According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (which oughtta know), great egrets are 37 – 40 inches long, whereas snowy egrets are only 22 – 26 inches. You might think that size difference would be obvious, even in casual observation. I certainly thought so, until I casually observed some big white birds.
Standing in/near water and hunched down/over, ready to pounce — as they tend to be — great egrets and snowy egrets can be remarkably difficult to tell apart.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
Now, it’s true that one of them has a yellow beak and the other has a yellow and mostly black beak, but somehow that difference never sticks with me. But one thing does stick, courtesy of another birdwatcher: dem golden slippers. Snowy egrets have yellow feet.
Of course, with the dawn’s early light leaching all colour from the scene, even the bright yellow of those feet can be remarkably difficult to see.