Egrets along with the ibises, herons, and bitterns are of the Coconiformes family with about 25 representatives in Costa Rica. The best places to see many of these are the Palo Verde and Cño Negro areas and northwestern Costa Rica.
The most commonly seen is the cattle egret (garcilla bueyera; Bubulcus ibis), which was first recorded in Costa Rica in 1954. Since then the population of this white heron has exploded dramatically and it is seen countrywide up to about 2000m. It is distinguished from other white herons by its stockier appearance and terrestrial feeding habits (often in pastures), whereas most herons feed in water. In the breeding season, buff-colored head plumes, chest and back are distinctive.
During non-breeding, you can tell the white herons apart by the colors of their legs and bills. The cattle egret has blackish legs and a yellow bill. The larger snowy egret (garceta nivosa; Egretta thula) has black legs with bright yellow feet ('golden slippers') and a black bill with yellow facial skin. The great egret (garceta grande; Casmeroidus albus) is by far the largest white heron, standing over a meter tall, with a very long neck, black legs and yellow bill. All these are quite common.
Pictures by Angela and Jörn Malek. The team of Discovery Travel World wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.